GTFF COVID illustration

(Eleanor Klock/Daily Emerald)

Graduate employees will be included in the 1B phase of vaccine rollout in University of Oregon clinics starting the last week of April, along with higher education faculty and staff. UO President Michael Schill announced the decision in a campus-wide email in early March, when he released more information on his plan for a full return to UO campus for fall 2021. 

Rhiannon Lindgren, vice president of organizing for the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation, said the union had no prior knowledge of their inclusion in the 1B phase of vaccinations, and she found out the same way everyone else did. 

Lindgren said there was some followup with the UO administration to see if GEs count as educators in that email. UO counts the GE job as 49% educator and 51% student so as to not qualify for employee benefits, Lingren said. This led to confusion among GEs as to whether they would qualify for vaccination as students or as educators. After confirmation from UO administration, GEs learned they would be included with faculty and staff and will receive an email no later than April 12 to schedule an appointment. Some GEs may qualify as frontline workers if they work in person, making them eligible for vaccination after April 5.  

UO vaccinations clinics will operate on weekdays during business hours from April 21 to29 at Autzen Stadium, according to UO’s vaccination website. Employees being vaccinated will be able to walk, bike or drive through to receive their doses. Second doses will be administered from May 12 to 20 on weekdays. 

While vaccines should mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as the UO community returns to in-person classes, some still have doubts about the safety of completely returning. 

Lindgren voiced her worries about UO’s case management after the vaccine becomes available to all people over the age of 16 in Oregon after May 1. She said she is concerned that UO will not make the vaccine mandatory for students and faculty returning to campus — and that the safety measures for faculty and staff will not extend past students getting vaccinated.

UO spokesperson Saul Hubbard wrote in a statement that GEs have always been in the sequencing plans for vaccination plans, along with other employees who teach or work or support students. Hubbard also said that vaccine clinics will include all UO employee groups. 

Additionally, Hubbard said UO has taken actions to maintain the physical safety of campus buildings. 

Hubbard said the UO has reconfigured offices, classrooms and common spaces to enable physical distancing, maintaining an enhanced cleaning schedule for common spaces and even adjusting air handling systems to reduce contaminants where possible in all buildings. 

In terms of additional safety measures for the fall, Hubbard said UO is working with local health authorities and will release information as it becomes available.