Unvaccinated WSU coach Nick Rolovich seeks religious exemption: The questionnaire that could determine his fate

<p><p>Washington State coach Nick Rolovich is seeking a religious exemption from the state mandate and has declined to get vaccinated despite the urging of his mentor, according to a published report.</p></p><p><p>USA Today’s account is based on comments by June Jones, who coached Rolovich at Hawaii.</p></p><p><p>“He believes the way he believes, and he doesn’t think he needs it,” Jones told the publication. “It’s like I told him: It’s not about him anymore. It’s about the people around you and the credibility of the university, and he’s got to take one for the team.”</p></p><p><p>Rolovich announced in July that he had declined the COVID-19 vaccine but kept his reasons private. A month later, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued a mandate requiring state employees in higher education to get vaccinated by Oct. 18. The order allows for exemptions for medical and religious reasons.</p></p><p><p>If he doesn’t comply with the mandate, Rolovich could lose his job in the middle of the season.</p></p><p><p>Meanwhile, his anti-vaccination stance has created an awkward situation for Washington State, an R1-level research institution (highest classification) with a medical school.</p></p><p><p>Rolovich is the state’s top-paid employee — he earns approximately $3 million annually with a contract that runs through the 2024 season — and the face of the university’s highest-profile entity.</p></p><p><p>“At most universities, people pay attention to what the university president, the football coach, the basketball coach and the athletic director have to say — that’s just the reality,” WSU president Kirk Schulz told the New York Times.</p></p><p><p>“People look at them for leadership because they’re highly visible and highly compensated. It doesn’t help when you have people who are contrary to the direction we’re going.”</p></p><p><p>Inslee’s mandate doesn’t include a test-out option, philosophical exemptions or guidance on how state institutions should define the criteria for religious and medical exemptions. So WSU worked with the state attorney general’s office to set a framework, then trained a team of people to evaluate the requests.</p></p><p><p>Rolovich had until Oct. 4 to file his request for a religious exemption. The form, available online, has six questions:</p></p><p><p>— <strong>Question 1:</strong> <em>Employee name and WSU ID# (Print)</em></p></p><p><p>(Note: WSU has implemented a blind review process, so identifying marks for all employees will be removed when the panel evaluates the requests.)</p></p><p><p>— <strong>Question 2:</strong> <em>“Describe the sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance that is the basis for your request for a religious exemption/accommodation to WSU’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement.”</em></p></p><p><p>— <strong>Question 3:</strong> <em>“Briefly explain how your sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance conflicts with WSU’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement.”</em></p></p><p><p>— <strong>Question 4:</strong> <em>“How long have you held the above religious belief, practice, or observance?”</em></p></p><p><p>— <strong>Question 5:</strong> <em>“If you have ever received a FDA authorized or approved vaccine at any time in your life, please explain how your sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance causes you to object to the COVID-19 vaccine compared to other vaccines you received.”</em></p></p><p><p>— <strong>Question 6:</strong> <em>“If the request for accommodation is temporary, please identify the anticipated date the accommodation is no longer needed.”</em></p></p><p><p>The form then states:</p></p><p><p><em>“Washington State University may need to obtain additional follow up information about your strongly held religious belief(s) and/or discuss reasonable accommodations to WSU’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement.”</em></p></p><p><p>Approval of Rolovich’s request during the blind review process does not guarantee his continued employment.</p></p><p><p>An approved request would be sent to the human resources department, which would identify the employee in question and send an email to his/her supervisor indicating the exemption had been approved.</p></p><p><p>At that point, the supervisor would determine if reasonable accommodations could be made for the unvaccinated employee to perform his/her job effectively and keep the public safe.</p></p><p><p>Rolovich is the only unvaccinated football coach in the Pac-12.</p></p><p><p>His supervisor is athletic director Pat Chun, but a decision of such magnitude would be made, ultimately, by Schulz, the president.</p></p><p><p>Schulz is a scientist, with a doctorate in chemical engineering.</p></p><p><p>According to the Seattle Times, the state had received 3,891 requests for religious exemptions as of Sept. 6.</p></p><p><p>Of those, only seven requests had been granted and had the accommodations made for continued employment.</p></p>