A Cypriot high court has ruled that banning unvaccinated professors from the classroom was a matter of school regulation and not detrimental to their academic career or a right to privacy.
Local media reported this week on a case filed against the Cyprus University of Technology, known as TEPAK, in connection with a ban on unvaccinated persons from the classroom in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
In August 2021, the school in Limassol took measures to ban all students and professors from the classroom unless they were vaccinated against COVID-19 or recovered from the virus. This was described as a step above government measures that allowed at the time the use of rapid and PCR tests to access restricted places in other domains.
'Without a basic consultation the [university] decision had been issued in violation of the principles of equal treatment between vaccinated and unvaccinated academics' lawyers argued
But plaintiff Toula Onoufriou, a civil engineering professor and head of the Cyprus Hydrocarbons Company, argued through union lawyers that she was not given the right to be heard.
“Without a basic consultation the [university] decision had been issued in violation of the principles of equal treatment between vaccinated and unvaccinated academics,” lawyers for Onoufriou argued.
The counterargument was that the TEPAK administration took a regulatory decision and not administrative action, with the judges saying in any case the plaintiffs knew that a decision was imminent even if the school was not obligated to call for public comments.
In the final decision, it was stated that the bench found that a reassignment of courses to vaccinated professors was not detrimental to the unvaccinated professor’s academic career or any violation of the right to privacy.
The judges also said TEPAK’s decision on 24 August 2021 was not unwarranted as it was taken during an emergency meeting following a Cabinet approval a month earlier that extended the health minister’s executive powers in combating the spread of a highly transmissible virus.
“With the executive order by the health minister for additional measures, and bearing in mind the high transmissibility of the virus, TEPAK’s faculty senate issued a protocol that regulated the manner in which Fall semester classes and a host of other administrative issues would be carried out for the safe and smooth operation of the university,” the court found.
The court found the appeal was inadmissible and ordered the plaintiffs to pay court expenses to the tune of €1800 plus any applicable VAT charges.