12 Jun Addressing Police Violence and Our Vision for a Safe Return to Classes
- Addressing Police Violence: UICUF has signed in support of our Students’ Demands that UIC divest from aggressive policing and invest in our community. Please join us in supporting this effort by signing as an individual faculty member.
- UICUF Vision for a Safe Fall: Qualified health experts among UICUF’s membership have crafted a vision for a safe and equitable return to Fall classes that prioritizes combining current health best practices with specific insight from faculty, staff, and students.
- Upcoming Events: Many important events are coming up next week including the union-sponsored “Town Hall You Should’ve Had,” and union-sponsored Juneteenth activities! See below for details.
- Bargaining Resumes: We will return to impact bargaining with our newly reconstituted bargaining team on Thursday and will report back on proceedings.
Addressing Police Violence in our Communities
While the university has made a statement supporting racial justice in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, UICUF has joined our students’ calls for more concrete action. This open letter calls for the university to divest from aggressive policing practices, and to reinvest in supporting and enriching our community, especially through anti-racist education and initiatives. UICUF is committed to standing strongly behind the leadership and expertise of those most affected by this ongoing crisis of police violence: our students and faculty of color. Our Representative Assembly has signed on in support of these demands, and we encourage all faculty to consider signing them as well.
UICUF Presents a Vision for a Safe Return to Classes
Among our membership, we count hundreds of qualified academic experts in a wide variety of fields, including public health and epidemiology. We’ve asked some of these experts from our own ranks to present a vision for what a safe return to classes might look like as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. This is the first in a series of planned white papers written on contemporary issues affecting our university and community.
You can download the statement on our website, and we have printed it in its entirety at the end of this email for your convenience.
Next week, there are a variety of union-sponsored and union-adjacent events that we highly encourage you to check out if you have time.
- Monday 12-2pm: UIC Social Justice Initiative presents Police, Politics, Power and Race, an online discussion on how the current movement for Black Lives has led to defunding police in certain cities, calls for massive investments and new economic models for community empowerment.
- Thursday, 6-7pm: UIC Unions United, our coalition of campus unions, will host the Town Hall You Should’ve Had, a space to voice your concerns and hear the concerns of our fellow unions.
- Friday: Friday is Juneteenth, the date that marks the end of slavery in the United States. In honor of the occasion, UICUF will be hosting a Safe Space for Faculty of Color: UICUF invites faculty of color to come together in a virtual space on Juneteenth to share experiences, support each other, and learn more about how all of us are doing in this difficult time. The space will be hosted & facilitated by a faculty member of color.
We’ll send out more details of these events early next week!
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UIC UF Vision for Moving Forward, Fall 2020
Health & Safety Statement
Approved by the UIC United Faculty Executive Board
We are in uncertain times. There is not one right answer or best strategy for moving forward in all contexts. Scientific knowledge and understanding of the pandemic virus changes daily, demanding that we keep abreast of the best evidence to inform our judgment and decisions in planning the 2020-2021 academic year. We also must act in accordance with UIC’s own guiding principles and the interests of our community, so we must ask ourselves—Whom does UIC serve? What are our values?
UICUF values the health and safety of all UIC students, faculty, staff, their families, and their communities, and is committed to ensuring that health and safety are the foundation for all decisions related to University operations during this pandemic and its potential endemic transition. This is the umbrella under which any world-class university must provide its education; this is a matter of right and justice for all students, faculty, and staff.
UICUF opposes any request by UIC for exception to state and municipal rules or guidelines, as the upper administration has suggested it will seek. Additionally, accepting state and local guidelines as a minimum, we expect that the UIC administration will work with faculty to establish COVID-19 specific policies and procedures aligned with the health and safety of all students, faculty, staff, their families, and their communities, to insure educational engagement and success.
What should be our rules for “re-entry”? Above all else, caution. Premature lifting or release of any feature of the current guidelines set by the state and/or city is unacceptable. Current health and safety evidence demands adequate control of COVID-19 transmission in order for universities to resume functioning. Drawing on the expertise of our many members in healthcare, UICUF wishes to promote a clear and transparent vision for re-opening the UIC campus that explicitly articulates what measures will be taken to protect the community. Practically, this means a full program of mitigation across all campus spaces, including structural and resource support for:
- Hygiene—hand washing, surface disinfecting
- Personal protective equipment (PPE)—use of gloves and masks/face shields
- Social distancing—while 6 feet is the current recommendation, that length is somewhat arbitrary and could change with time. Distance safety is related to characteristics of the space including temperature, humidity, and air circulation, as well as the disease prevalence and social risk acceptance. Particular requirements for our high-rise, commuter campus will involve specific consideration for elevator use and stairways.
- Surveillance of transmission:
- Screening—symptom assessment and reporting
- Testing—at this point, there seem to be two basic options a) testing every person at regular intervals; b) testing with adequate sampling.
- Contact tracing—along with a robust system of quarantine for cases/contacts
- Quality and management of indoor air: indoor air management has not received as much attention as social distancing with COVID-19, but we know from hospitals the importance of indoor air management for infection control. Negative airflow technology and HEPA filtration systems are established practice in health institutions, and some type of air quality measure is important for all institutions. The simple truth is that public health authorities have not yet established best COVID-19 practices for non-health care settings.
- Expertise and a clearly tailored set of operational procedures: given the various and unique needs of buildings and social spaces across campus, it is important to incorporate the insights and perspectives of faculty across disciplines about how to adequately address the various structural and social contexts ensuring the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff. Currently, there does not appear to be an established university health and safety task force or committee providing guidance, as the Chancellor has promised.
Ensuring the health and safety of students, faculty, staff, and their families and communities does not stop at the campus boundaries. This commitment necessitates attention to and respect for an individual’s specific life circumstances and relationships. Vulnerable populations abound in the UIC community in relation to the high number of intergenerational, working-class/essential worker households that often include populations with statistical likelihood of increased risk factors, such as underlying health conditions. This is also in many ways the case with the faculty as well. Our commitment also obliges consideration of and accommodation to related transportation and technology needs. A truly inclusive environment takes into account all these types of medical and social vulnerabilities.
While these are difficult and trying times, they are also times for innovation and creativity. UIC has the opportunity to create a SAFE CAMPUS and contribute to SAFE COMMUNITIES through policies and procedures that minimize infections and maximize lives saved. We urge the formation of campus policies with, above all, these points in mind, and with the administration recognizing both the need and the desirability of full shared governance with all relevant stakeholders in the formation of such policy.