UPJ Mountain Cat statue

The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown Mountain Cat statue sits in an empty courtyard during spring break March 11, 2020, at the campus in Richland Township.

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown staff from the facilities division protested outside the campus on Wednesday about the COVID-19 mitigation requirements in place.

“The protests were organized by a small group of unionized staff,” a university spokesperson said. “Our vaccine and testing protocols are in place to ensure the health and well-being of the entire Pitt community. We are not aware of any other related protests.”

At the beginning of the school year, employees were required to upload proof of vaccination to the Pitt system or receive weekly coronavirus testing.

“Any employee who is not in compliance with weekly testing requirements is not permitted in Pitt buildings,” the university spokesperson said. “We have been working with union leadership as we have implemented this strategy, and most of the unions have supported these terms.”

The facilities employees at Pitt-Johnstown are represented by the Service Employees International Union, according to the university’s website.

Christine Dahlin, an associate professor of biology at the school, was upset by the demonstration.

“I’m really disappointed that staff at a university, with many people versed in vaccine safety, would be resistant to vaccination,” she said.

Dahlin has been a proponent of mandatory COVID-19 inoculations for faculty, students and staff since the beginning of the new term. She’s also helped organize a petition sent to university President Jem Spectar asking for more strict mitigation efforts, and she has led a faculty senate petition to require coronavirus vaccines.

“We have many faculty members who have been making information on the safety and importance of COVID vaccines widely available,” Dahlin said. “If anyone on our campus has concerns or questions about vaccine safety, they can just come to our offices and ask us.

“Vaccine mandates are also not new, and no one should have the right to expose someone else to a deadly virus.”

Joshua Byers is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5054. Follow him on Twitter @Journo_Josh.

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