CSU changes non-COVID immunization policy
CSU updates vaccine requirements for students and faculty
March 28, 2023
The California Faculty Association recently filed an unfair practice charge against California State University system over changes to non-COVID immunization policy.
“In February 2023, the CSU revised EO 803 (Immunization Requirements and Recommendations), moving immunizations from required to recommended, with the exception of Hep B for 18 years and younger which is required by law,” said Hazel Kelly, who serves as strategic communications and public affairs manager for the CSU Chancellor’s Office.
It is customary for the CSU to meet and confer with the California Faculty Association about issues affecting faculty health and working conditions. The CFA is a union representing faculty across all 23 campuses.
“This was discussed at various levels amongst several groups of the leadership of CFA. We decided to demand what is known as a meet and confer. This is a consultation meeting with management about the change in the policy and they refused to meet with us,” said Kevin Wehr, CFA vice president and faculty member at Sacramento State.
“They said that this is about students. It’s not about faculty. We don’t have to talk to you. So we actually filed a complaint with the public employee relations board (PERB) saying that they violated our rights by not meeting with us.”
The CSU eliminated all vaccination requirements for measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis and tuberculosis. The new policy was made effective on Feb. 14.
“It is important to note that the policy delegates each CSU campus president the authority to require vaccination for individuals in campus-specific contexts,” Kelly said. “In the event of a local or campus-based outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease, the local public health department and/or the CDPH is authorized to require immunizations.”
At the time of publication SF State has not announced any changes to the new CSU vaccine policy.
The revision aligns with the recommendations from the American College Health Association and the CDC, according to Kelly. In controversy, the CFA states that this move is against the California Department of Public Health and ACHA guidelines according to their newsletter.
“I believe that they have a legal requirement to consult with the faculty and the faculty’s representative, which is the union,” Wehr said. “They have a legal requirement to meet with us and consider the impacts of any policy change. I also believe that CSU should go through the standard process of shared governance. They should be asking the academic senates what their opinion is on this.”
The CFA filed a Public Employment Relations Board charge on March 8.
“They rarely consult with the union before they make changes,” said James Martel, CFA Executive Board President for SF State. “We usually have to chase them down to have a meet and confer even though it is required in the contract.”
The case has been assigned to a regional attorney responsible for investigating allegations, who will determine the factual allegations in the CFA’s unfair practice charge.
“If so, the regional attorney will issue a complaint against CSU the case would then be assigned to a different attorney for mediation with the goal of reaching a settlement,” said J. Felix De La Torre, general counsel for PERB. “If the mediation is unsuccessful, the case will be transferred to PERB’s Division of Administrative Law for a formal hearing.”
When this stage is reached the CFA must prove its allegations through admissible evidence. If the regional attorney determines that the allegations are not a legally required rebuttable presumption, in other words a prima facie case, they will issue a warning letter allowing the CFA to add facts. If the CFA can not provide additional facts in the prima facie case, PERB will dismiss the unfair practice charge.
“One of the benefits of the revised policy is that it removes an administrative barrier for CSU students since the previous requirements were redundant with California law for TK-12 immunizations,” Kelly said. “94% of CSU students are from California and the state’s TK-12 immunization compliance in public schools is extremely high. Removing administrative barriers that impede student success is one way the CSU is implementing change as part of Graduation Initiative 2025.”
The CFA is concerned about how this decision will affect faculty.
“We have a lot of faculty who are immune compromised or live with someone who is,” Martel said. “Some faculty have been having a really hard time with the mandate to teach most classes on campus because of concerns over COVID. For some, it won’t make any difference, but for others, it will make a very large difference in terms of their concern for their own safety and that of their loved ones.”