December 6, 2021

Message from Dean Lang

To: Liberal Arts Full-time Faculty and Staff
From: Clarence Lang

I hope this message finds you well as we begin the last week of classes. 

I suspect many have experienced a modicum of relief from pandemic concerns as the availability of COVID-19 vaccines and boosters continue to expand. Unfortunately, a recent rise in cases and the emergence of the Omicron variant are stark reminders that we are not completely out of the woods yet – and with all that has been occurring lately, I can imagine that staying abreast of University COVID-19 requirements and other information has been difficult. This memo focuses on updates regarding those requirements, along with international travel restrictions and a few other important trending issues ahead of winter break and the spring semester. 

  • As distilled from a recent update provided in Penn State News, essentially all full- and part-time Penn State employees are now expected to comply with federal COVID-19 vaccination requirements. The deadline for fully complying with the vaccine requirement, or to receive a religious or medical/disability accommodation, is now Tuesday, January 4. To support this revised timeline, our college has begun contacting colleagues who had not uploaded their vaccination information or received a religious or medical/disability accommodation by November 29, and documenting communications with them about how they intend to meet the federal contractor vaccination requirement.   
  • College staff who are not fully compliant by December 15 will be placed into the University’s weekly testing protocol beginning the week of January 3. While weekly testing will continue until individuals are fully vaccinated or have an approved accommodation, it should not be viewed as a means for avoiding the vaccine requirements—and continued noncompliance will, lead to additional disciplinary measures such as unpaid administrative leave or potential termination. 
  • College faculty who are not compliant by December 15 will also be placed into the University’s weekly testing protocol beginning the week of January 3. Further, faculty who do not comply with the mandate by January 4 will be recommended for unpaid leave, and continued noncompliance will result in additional disciplinary action, up to and including termination. Faculty members placed on unpaid leave who comply with the vaccination mandate prior to July 1, 2022, may be permitted to return to paid service, but only if the college determines there are still appropriate duties available for them.  
  • Graduate students who are not fully compliant or who have not received religious or medical/disability accommodations by January 4 will not be eligible for assistantship support after that date. Part-time student and non-student employees who similarly demonstrate no steps toward compliance by January 4 will not be scheduled to work until further notice. 
  • As I expect you know, the emergence of the Omicron variant has led to a new wave of international travel restrictions. Please keep in mind that Penn State employees choosing to travel abroad over the winter break do so at their own risk. The University has remained strict in prohibiting employees from performing teaching and other work remotely while outside the United States. No exceptions have been, or will be, granted to anyone unable to return – individuals caught in this predicament will be placed on unpaid leave, and neither your unit nor the college will have any recourse in the matter. Please plan your travel accordingly. 

I am grateful to all of you who have already uploaded your vaccination information to the University’s databases, and I am especially heartened to know that a large majority of the college’s full-time employees are already in compliance. As I have throughout the pandemic, I urge those of you who can safely be vaccinated to do so. 

Although it is impossible to ignore the ongoing impact that COVID-19 has on our daily routine, I think it is important to also highlight activities that demonstrate the ways we continue to support each other. I am especially proud of Liberal Arts staff, faculty, and student involvement in several activities this semester, including last month’s “Love is Louder” event that the University organized in solidarity with Penn State’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ)+communities. The gathering featured faculty presenters from the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and a table staffed by leadership from Undergraduate Advising, the Chaiken Center for Student Success, and several undergraduate Peer Advisors. Likewise, I have been pleased with the responses the dean’s office has received to my invitation for special, short-term funding proposals to support tenure-line, teaching, research and clinical faculty, and Liberal Arts staff employees. For those of you interacting with both residential and World Campus undergraduate and graduate students experiencing financial need, be sure to refer them to our college’s Emergency Scholarship Fund. 

Notwithstanding the recent news of another across-the-board one percent rescission to our college’s budget (amounting to approximately $1.1 million), our dean’s office team remains focused on advancing the college’s key priorities: access, affordability, academic success, and innovative job readiness for our students; support for teaching and research excellence, and career progression among our tenure-line, teaching, research, and clinical faculty; and greater acknowledgment and professional development of staff. On this last point, I am delighted that University leaders approved additional paid time off for full-time staff over the holiday break, and I was thrilled to announce a new award in our college this year – the Kenya and Kevin Faulkner Equity and Justice Staff Award

Best wishes for a productive end to your semester and a well-deserved respite – and if you can, please join us for the college’s holiday open house taking place from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday, December 7) at the Hintz Family Alumni Center.