Author: Tony Floriani

26 Mar UICUF Spring Membership Meeting Next Wednesday 3:30pm

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  • Membership Meeting: UICUF will hold its Spring Membership Meeting next Wednesday, 3/31/21, from 3:30-5pm. All members are welcome and should have received login info by email message us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com if you didn’t receive that info, or you wish to join the union.
  • Meeting Agenda: We will be discussing the results of our recent Safety and Reopening Survey, updates from the bargaining table, and updates on organizing for NTT job security.
  • UIC Senate Addresses Student Evals, NTT Sabbaticals, Tenure Rollbacks: The senate recently weighed in independently on a number of issues UICUF is currently working on. They have resolved against using student evals in faculty reviews, proposed new NTT sabbaticals, and supported automatic tenure rollback extensions for all who want them!
  • Teaching Modifier Update: We now have the statutory language, approved by the Board of Trustees, that will allow for the new “Teaching” modified titles. Notably the language leaves the conversion process to colleges and departments to decide.

Dear Members,

Our Spring Membership Meeting will be next Wednesday, 3/31, from 3:30-5pm (see full login information for this remote meeting below). Among the topics under discussion, we will hear from our COVID Benchmarks Committee on the results of the Safety and Reopening Survey, and benchmarks to ensure a safe campus reopening in Fall 2021. We will also discuss bargaining, which appears to be stalled as Unfair Labor Practice charges filed against the administration for failure to bargain in good faith move forward. In addition, we will hear from members organizing to fight for stronger NTT job security.

UIC Senate Resolutions
UICUF and the Senate have separate and distinct roles in policy-making at UIC, and we are always excited to see those roles complement each other in supporting faculty. Recently the Senate has been particularly active on issues that UICUF has been working on independently, and we think UIC faculty will benefit greatly from the new motions just passed. In particular, the Senate has passed a resolution against the use of student evaluations in upcoming faculty reviews, directly acknowledging both the flawed nature of these evaluation measures in general, and the distortion of metrics under the stresses of the pandemic. They’ve also proposed NTT sabbaticals for the first time in UIC history, laying out a roadmap to start the process and amend the statutes so that teaching faculty can take advantage of this much sought academic privilege. Finally, while the administration has announced that tenure rollbacks are to be extended in a general statement, the senate has gone farther, specifying that these rollbacks should be automatic for any who want them, rather than at the administration’s discretion.

It is worth pointing out in the wake of these resolutions that the administration has frequently attempted to drive a wedge between faculty by asserting, falsely, that certain issues are the sole domain of the Senate, and not appropriate for bargaining. Though UICUF retains full rights to bargain over working conditions, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our colleagues in the Senate on these issues sends a strong message of unity to the administration. We will, of course, keep up pressure on the administration to follow through on these resolutions and to work out and sign agreements at the bargaining table.

Solidarity,
UIC United Faculty

***

We hold regular office hours from 12-1pm Wednesday and Thursday each week. Use the following links to add them to your calendar:
Wednesday 12-1pm | Thursday 12-1pm

We issue regular updates via email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and on our website. We encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. If you want to contribute your story, pictures, video, or other content related to the activities of the union, email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. With your support, we are making UIC an even SAFER place to work and learn!

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19 Mar UIC Admin Punts on Reopening Concerns, Calls Halt to Bargaining

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  • UIC Admin Side Steps Reopening Concerns: Chancellor Amiridis issued this statement in response to our open letter on reopening concerns, carefully avoiding addressing the problematic decision-making process on reopening, or any other specific issues raised.
  • Labor Relations Halts Bargaining: In a separate (and illegal) move, Labor Relations has signalled their unwillingness to negotiate further over COVID and reopening, pending results of upcoming Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) hearings on charges filed by UICUF.
  • ULPs and Illegal Actions: UICUF filed ULP charges last summer over unilateral decisions made by admin that affect our contract. They are repeating those illegal patterns in their approach to planning for this fall.
  • UICUF Demands a Return to Bargaining in Good Faith: We are disappointed with admin’s protracted approach to bargaining, but we continue to believe it is the only appropriate venue to address ongoing effects on our members’ working conditions.
  • COVID VACCINE UPDATE: Chicago is on track to start phase 1C of vaccine distribution, which includes postsecondary faculty, on 3/29. Vaccine appointments will be offered via MyChart, and both the administration and UICUF encourage you to set up accounts.
  • COVID SAFETY AND REOPENING SURVEY ENDS 6PM TODAY: You still have until 6pm today to complete our Safety and Reopening Survey. The results will be presented at our member meeting, 3:30pm, 3/31. Zoom link to follow closer to the date.

 

Dear Members,

Last week we sent an open letter to the Chancellor, asking him to address concerns around the decision-making process that led to an announcement on reopening classrooms in the fall. We also expressed concerns over the implications of those apparent plans, in particular the impact of shifting most classes to what looks like a Hybrid/HyFlex model of course delivery. Hybrid course delivery means presenting course content simultaneously to students both in person and via remote learning, while Flexible models are those that allow students to choose how to attend class while offering the same learning outcomes regardless of in-person or remote venues.

This week, we received a response that is, unfortunately, quite disappointing. We can appreciate the optimistic approach of hoping most faculty will be vaccinated by fall, and that the university can return safely to some level of in-person instruction. But hope is not a plan, and optimism is not an explanation for how these plans were made. UICUF continues to hope that the university will include faculty voices in reopening plans, but since that does not appear to be on the agenda, we are and will continue exploring other options to advocate for our members and the university as a whole.

Labor Relations Halts Bargaining Process
One major avenue we have pursued since the beginning of the pandemic has been collective bargaining. This is, UICUF believes, the only appropriate venue for negotiating plans that will impact our members’ working conditions, which are contractually protected. Unfortunately again, admin has not engaged with this process in an earnest and collaborative way. Indeed the administration apparently plans to celebrate a year of obstruction with an indefinite halting of ongoing negotiations.

Labor Relations is now saying that they have no interest in further bargaining sessions until after the resolution of Unfair Labor Practice hearings set for later this Spring (though the proceedings may continue into the summer, or even beyond). These ULP charges are, perhaps ironically, themselves a direct result of the administration’s pattern of obstructing bargaining and taking action on issues under negotiation without reaching agreements with the union.

To be clear, refusing to bargain by insisting future negotiations are contingent on a judicial process, and refusing to render agreements on changes to contractually protected working conditions into writing, are illegal actions by the administration. UICUF is demanding that the administration return to the table in good faith and finalize an agreement–which was making slow, but steady progress up to this point.

Solidarity,
UIC United Faculty

***

We hold regular office hours from 12-1pm Wednesday and Thursday each week. Use the following links to add them to your calendar:
Wednesday 12-1pm | Thursday 12-1pm

We issue regular updates via email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and on our website. We encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. If you want to contribute your story, pictures, video, or other content related to the activities of the union, email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. With your support, we are making UIC an even SAFER place to work and learn!

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18 Mar Chancellor’s Response on Reopening Concerns

Last week, we published an open letter outlining concerns our members have expressed over recently announced reopening plans published by the administration. In particular, we have heard frustration over the lack of transparency and inclusion in the decision-making process that seems to have completely bypassed faculty committees formed explicitly to consider this topic, and concerns over what appears to be a move toward Hybrid/HyFlex models of course delivery.

Unfortunately, the response we received seems to carefully avoid addressing these concerns, leaving more questions than answers in its wake. For full transparency, we have reproduced that response from Chancellor Amiridis in it’s entirety, here:

Dear Janet,

Thank you for sharing your concerns regarding UIC’s return-to-campus this fall.  We too are cautiously optimistic about vaccinations – in fact, we expect to start vaccinating the remaining faculty and staff within the next 2-3 weeks – and we hope that we can finally get a handle on the pandemic.  Of course, the situation remains fluid, but it now appears that we can begin our transition back to on-campus learning, consistent with national trends in higher education and relying on guidance from appropriate medical and government entities. 

We recognize that many details still need to be worked out, both on a macro and micro level.  But we are confident that those details will be worked out within the Colleges and the departments with guidance from the Provost office, and that faculty members and their Chairs/Deans will effectively communicate and reach appropriate arrangements to return to on-campus teaching without compromising safety. 

Should any particular issues arise that you feel require more discussion, please do not hesitate to reach out to Nancy or Andrew, and they will include me and Susan as appropriate. The University sincerely appreciates the commitment and flexibility of all our faculty during these challenging times, and we will continue to work with you to achieve our ongoing critical missions for our students and our community. 

Best wishes,
Michael

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12 Mar Open Letter to Chancellor Amiridis on Announced Reopening Plans

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Dear Chancellor Amiridis and Provost Poser,

Monday’s email to students, staff and faculty, “Fall 2021 Information for Undergraduate Students,” has raised many serious questions and concerns – and added substantial confusion as we are trying to plan for fall.

A key concern and source of confusion is how the administration went from asking colleges “to create a set of contingency plans, based on several different scenarios, that maximize the number of students attending class on-campus” (February 26, 2021) to saying this about Fall 2021:

Most sections of classes with enrollment of fewer than 100 students will meet on campus and follow all public health protocols, including required masking and distancing. This will mean that for most on-campus classes, all of the students enrolled in the class will not be able to attend in-person every day, so they will have the ability to view recorded/streamed lectures when not present in the classroom.

The second sentence is confusing in terms of what it even means for teaching: for example, how will this all work, even with additional technology and tents?  Is the plan even viable, much less pedagogically responsible? Also of significant concern, there does not seem to have been much — if any — shared governance or true engagement with the faculty in developing this proposal before it was issued. Moreover, in reading this, we suspect the plan will add substantially more uncompensated work, time, and preparation, adding significantly to the burdens of already greatly overstressed faculty while not providing commensurate benefits to students. It also begs the question: is this something students want (much less understand)? Because most students who will be with us in the fall are here now, we wonder if they have been consulted, as they very clearly should have been.

Most urgent to us now are the requests of faculty to determine their mode of teaching, which is understandable given upcoming registration.  But in doing so, faculty are being asked to “justify” why they chose any mode that is not face-to-face. Some are being told that they will need to apply for approval to teach online through the Office of Access and Equity, following ADA requirements. While we are optimistic about vaccinations and getting a handle on this pandemic, there still is great uncertainty and many unknowns about what the pandemic will look like in the fall. How are faculty to make these determinations without any significant guidance?  More importantly, why are they having to do this right now? We fear that this strategy is motivated by a perceived need to be competitive or to appeal to incoming applicants rather than to do what is best for UIC faculty, staff and current students.

We have heard from many faculty that the administration’s approach is quite upsetting to them. That said, we do want to be clear: we the United Faculty at UIC very much want to work with the administration toward the common goal of returning to campus and meeting the university’s mission of equity and excellence in education. To do so requires collaboration and communication before decisions are made and not after the fact.  We had hoped that the last year would have, by this point, inspired much more of a commitment to genuine collaboration.

We would welcome meeting with you as soon as possible to discuss these matters.

Best regards,

Janet Smith

President, UIC United Faculty

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05 Mar Teaching Titles Now Available, Open Potential 3rd Rank

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  • Teaching Professor Titles: As you may have read in a recent university announcement, UIC can now offer titles with “Teaching” modifiers to NTT faculty–an item we bargained hard for in our last contract, but which was held up pending changes to UI Statutes.
     
  • Third Rank: The new titles open opportunities for some NTT faculty with larger teaching responsibilities to earn a third rank, not currently available on the Lecturer track. We encourage members to discuss title conversions via shared governance in their units. 
     
  • Fall Plans Refocus on Hy/Flex: In an announcement last week, the Provost’s office walked back reported plans for mandatory in-person classes, though the plan now appears to prioritize (and budget for) a hybrid/flexible delivery model with its own complications.
     
  • Bridge-to-Faculty Showcases: UIC is showcasing Bridge-to-Faculty scholars’ research this spring, and we encourage you to attend. The B2F program is intended to create a pipeline to tenure lines at UIC for scholars from underrepresented groups.

 

Dear Members,

At the very bottom of an email sent on February 22 regarding changes to Promotion and Tenure, new teaching titles for NTT faculty were announced. This is a potential game-changer, with new ranks including Teaching Assistant Professor, Teaching Associate Professor, and Teaching Professor. These ranks could allow faculty with significant teaching responsibilities currently limited to a single rank progression, from Lecturer to Senior Lecturer, the possibility to earn promotion to a third rank. 

An Achievement Years in the Making
This has been a long-sought goal of UICUF, and we pushed hard to include these new ranks in our contract but were ultimately held back by limitations in the U of I statutes at the time. Since then, the UICUF caucus within the Senate worked to make the statutory changes ultimately adopted by the Board of Trustees late last year. Importantly, though, there was no specific process outlined for transitioning teaching faculty into these new titles, seemingly leaving the decisions to be made at the academic unit level. 

This is a meaningful opportunity for many of our NTT colleagues. We highly encourage our union members to bring transition plans up for discussion through shared governance in your unit. We hope this effort will include all faculty, not just those who might directly benefit from the new titles. If you are unsure of how to discuss this and would like some help initiating the conversation, just email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com, and we will offer any support we can.

Fall Planning Still in Flux
As we reported last week, some of our members, especially those in LAS, were given guidelines appearing to mandate in-person classes based on class size. After both the Senate and UICUF forcefully questioned these guidelines, the Provost announced that the only mandate at this time is the need to keep large, 100+ student classes fully remote. The remainder of classes will prioritize in-person attendance at the discretion of the Deans with supposed input from faculty. To support this priority, the email announcement that followed outlined a potentially large outlay of spending to equip classrooms for hybrid/flexible learning, where students may be in-person or remote simultaneously in real time, or may rotate between the two. 

UICUF is, at a minimum, calling on the administration not to repeat the same frustrating process of last year, when decisions were made without input or transparency, only to be walked back at the last minute. We also believe that financial priorities for spending CARES Act and other federal relief funds should not just be used to improve our technology but also classroom ventilation and campus safety. Most importantly, though, we need to make sure this spending doesn’t come at the expense of our members, who are still reporting potential financial contingencies in their units, including job cuts that could severely harm non-tenure-track faculty. 

 Bridge To Faculty Showcases
We here at UICUF want to spotlight work being done by our colleagues in the Bridge-to-Faculty program, a program intended to ultimately improve diversity in the ranks of UIC’s faculty. The university will be hosting a series of presentations this fall for the B2F scholars to share their research (see link above), and we highly encourage our members to drop in and engage with these scholars and the new program. There are currently 10 scholars in the program, but it is set to expand with a new cohort of 20 or more next year.     

Solidarity,
UIC United Faculty

***

We hold regular office hours from 12-1pm Wednesday and Thursday each week. Use the following links to add them to your calendar:
Wednesday 12-1pm | Thursday 12-1pm

We issue regular updates via email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and on our website. We encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. If you want to contribute your story, pictures, video, or other content related to the activities of the union, email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. With your support, we are making UIC an even SAFER place to work and learn!

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25 Feb Fall Reopening Plans Dictated, Then Retracted

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  • Policies Made, Then Retracted: 48 hours ago, UICUF began receiving documents outlining instructional methods (in-person v. remote) for a fall reopening. The Provost has since walked back these plans after being questioned by the Senate and the Union.
  • No Consultation: The parameters described would’ve stripped members of instructional autonomy and denied workers and students the chance to choose safety for themselves and loved ones. Neither our union, the Senate, nor Student Government were consulted.
  • This Kind of Decision Making Must Change: Though the plans shared with units were seemingly walked back by administration, they’re emblematic of the unaccountable and opaque decision making we’ve been fighting since before the pandemic.
  • What We All Deserve: Every person, from students to faculty, deserves the right to choose safety. Moreover, we have the right to be a part of decisions made about our safety, and our working and learning environments.
  • What You Can Do: We encourage you to join us for our Representative Assembly Meeting next Wednesday, 3/3/21 from 12pm-1:30, where we’ll discuss these issues in detail. If you are privy to other directives regarding fall reopening, please email us

 

Dear Members,

Starting about 48 hours ago, we began receiving convincing documentation indicating that plans had already been made to mandate course delivery methods (in-person v. remote) for Fall 2021. These documents came from multiple units, several featuring identical language, which strongly suggested a broad policy had been created. That policy appeared in particular to dictate that all classes, labs, and sections under 50 students would be forced to meet on campus.

After our colleagues in the Senate Executive Committee pushed back yesterday, the Provost seemed to acknowledge that she had made broad policy decisions about reopening the campus this fall without any pretense of shared governance. She asserted, however, that the specifics in the emails shared with faculty were inconsistent with those policy decisions. Today, at a meeting of the Academic Planning Task Force, which UICUF has a seat on, we learned that the plan is to give Deans the authority — and with input from faculty — to determine modality for classes under 100.

As the dust settles, the administration hopefully now recognizes that it must communicate thoroughly–and responsibly. We are seeking some kind of confirmation as to whether any policies have been finalized, and what those policies actually may be.

This Kind of Decision Making Must Stop
Regardless of the outcome, it certainly appears that despite assuring a variety of stakeholders that they would be consulted in the decision-making process, the administration simply decided to make more unilateral decisions and let us know after the fact. These plans and/or policies were made without the input or knowledge of UICUF or the UIC Graduate Employees Organization, even as we are both currently conducting impact bargaining over these exact issues. The decisions were also apparently made without the prior knowledge or consultation of the University Senate, the undergraduate leadership, or even the planning committee formed by the provost herself explicitly to handle these exact questions. At this moment, it’s not entirely clear whether the administration intends to actually engage with these groups, or simply back off to replan again in isolation from the people who are most affected by these decisions, and who also have crucial knowledge and perspectives essential to sound decision making on these issues.

We have, sadly and frequently, been here before. Less than a year ago, union members pushed to have the administration adopt safety benchmarks and assure workers and students of the autonomy to choose methods of instruction based on their personal needs and professional judgments. The administration chose at every phase to resist a transparent and participatory planning process, keeping thousands of workers and students in the dark until just days before the start of the academic year.

Every person in the UIC ecosystem, including students, staff, grad workers, and faculty, deserves the option to choose safety in real time, and an assurance from administration that the right to safety will be upheld. Moreover, we all deserve a say in decisions being made that will affect our health, our work, and our education. We have, and will continue to call on the administration to make any reopening planning transparent and participatory for all stakeholders involved.

What You Can Do
We are continuing to seek more clarity directly from the administration. We are also in discussion with stakeholders from all the aforementioned affected groups. We cannot, however, simply wait until another tone-deaf policy memo appears in our inboxes. So we are asking that you join us at our Representative Assembly Meeting next Wednesday, 3/3/21, from 12-1:30pm, to discuss this issue, and how we can reimagine the decision-making process at UIC that led to this chaotic series of events. All members are welcome, and we will plan further actions around this issue with further input from that meeting.  If you are not able to attend the meeting, we also welcome you sending your thoughts and concerns to UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com.

Solidarity,
UIC United Faculty

***

We hold regular office hours from 12-1pm Wednesday and Thursday each week. Use the following links to add them to your calendar:
Wednesday 12-1pm | Thursday 12-1pm

We issue regular updates via email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and on our website. We encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. If you want to contribute your story, pictures, video, or other content related to the activities of the union, email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. With your support, we are making UIC an even SAFER place to work and learn!
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18 Feb Spring Member Meeting & Check-Ins

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  • Save The Date: Our Spring Membership Meeting will be held via Zoom on Wednesday, March 31st from 3:30-5pm. All members are invited to join us in discussing UIC budgets and faculty retention, as well as planning for Back-to-School in the Fall.
  • Bargaining Update: We met with the administration again last week and received some responses to our impact bargaining proposals, though it’s clear there are still wide gaps in expectations, especially around enforceability of agreements.
  • Member Check-Ins:.As we register ongoing concerns over department budgets, job retention, and fall reopening plans, UICUF staff and reps will be checking-in with members by phone to learn more about your thoughts, questions, and concerns.
  • Health Concerns: We know that many faculty members are currently working on campus, even if they are not teaching. We want to invite members to message us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com if you have any health/safety concerns at this time.

 

Dear Members,

Our Spring Membership Meeting is now scheduled, from 3:30-5pm on March 31st. The meeting will be held via Zoom, and a link will be sent to each UICUF member closer to the event. All members are welcome and encouraged to attend as we discuss the implications of hinted-at budget and job cuts for 2021-2022, as well as plans for potentially re-opening campuses in the Fall. There will also be bargaining updates, as we continue to work toward contractually enforceable agreements with the administration.

Bargaining Updates
We met again last week to bargain over ongoing COVID-19 policy impacts and were given responses to a number of our proposals. While the administration is at least offering written responses now, it is clear that we still have a ways to go before a mutually agreeable framework can be signed. Perhaps most important of the remaining issues is that of enforceability of the agreement. The administration does not appear to think that our existing grievance and arbitration process, which was negotiated and agreed to by all parties in regular bargaining, is an appropriate venue to enforce agreements in a COVID-19 agreement. This goes back to the core issue in our Unfair Labor Practice filings, now scheduled for hearings this semester: the administration’s broad failure to negotiate enforceable written agreements within the collective bargaining framework. We hope that agreements can be reached in a meaningful timeframe, but are willing to go through the full ULP proceedings if that is what’s required to ensure that this critical function of labor relations is taken seriously by the administration.

Member Check-Ins
As we face ongoing uncertainty around important topics like Fall reopening plans, whether department budgets will be cut, and how that will affect faculty retention, UICUF will be doing a series of member check-ins. You may receive an email or phone call from a union representative, and we hope you’ll take a moment to let us know how you are faring this semester. As ever, anything you share with a union representative will be confidential, and will help us better understand what our members are experiencing, so we can best represent you.

You can, of course, always reach out to us proactively at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com, or via one of your elected college representatives, or by dropping into one of our virtual weekly office hours from 12-1pm, Wednesdays and Thursdays every week (see links at the bottom of this message).

Solidarity,
UIC United Faculty

***

We hold regular office hours from 12-1pm Wednesday and Thursday each week. Use the following links to add them to your calendar:
Wednesday 12-1pm | Thursday 12-1pm

We issue regular updates via email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and on our website. We encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. If you want to contribute your story, pictures, video, or other content related to the activities of the union, email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. With your support, we are making UIC an even SAFER place to work and learn!

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12 Feb Remembrance and Recognition

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  • Remembering Karen Lewis: Former CTU president and titan of the labor movement, Karen Lewis, passed away this weekend. CTU is holding a remembrance event followed by a religious service on zoom from 5-7pm tonight for all who wish to attend.
  • CTU Reaches Reopening Agreement: After almost a year of negotiations and tense moments over the past couple of weeks, CTU and CPS have reached and ratified a far-reaching agreement to reopen schools, raising the bar for COVID accommodations.
  • Union Accomplishments in the COVID Era: UICUF’s negotiations are progressing, and Unfair Labor Practices filed this summer will be heard in April, but we’ve already won a lot, like PD fund extensions, tenure rollbacks, and $1 million in prep compensation.
  • IFT/AFT Scholarships: Every year, our affiliates offer scholarship funds to the children of union members in good standing. IFT’s Porter and Megel scholarship applications are due March 5th. AFT Scholarship applications will open soon.

 

Dear Members,

It saddens us to bid farewell this week to Karen Lewis, a former President of the Chicago Teachers Union, and an inspirational leader whose impact on labor politics in Chicago and around the country cannot be overstated. The Chicago Teachers Union is holding a virtual Shiva, an event to remember and honor her life and contributions to our shared cause. The event will begin at 5pm with a memorial service and end with a religious service at 6:30pm. All who wish to attend are welcome. Among the many tributes, this one from CTU’s Jackson Potter provides a great history and memory of Karen.

CTU Reaches Reopening Agreement
Many teachers across the country have been forced back into classrooms this season, despite surging COVID cases and questionable or non-existent mitigation measures to protect workers and students. CTU held the line, demanding that the district negotiate a safe return, not just a quick one, even threatening to strike if teachers were disciplined for continuing to work remotely. This week, those efforts prevailed, as both sides compromised to reach an agreement that goes farther than almost any other such deal in the US. The deal was approved this week by the membership of CTU, and includes:

 

  • Phase-in reopening plans tied to vaccine distribution
  • School closures if needed for safety, defined by strict health metrics
  • Vaccination plans for all district employees
  • Remote-work accommodations for all employees with medical risks, frameworks for accommodating those with at-risk household members or childcare needs, and unpaid leave available for any worker not in the above groups, pending vaccination
  • Frequent testing to catch cases before they spread
  • Strict protections against unsafe conditions, including guaranteed PPE, ventilation, and other standards. Spaces not meeting these standards will not be used, and standards will be enforced by safety committees at each school including union representatives
  • Technology support for families that wish to keep their children learning remotely
  • Full Reinstatement for all workers previously locked out of classrooms

 

Many of these agreements are groundbreaking when taken individually, and together they will provide unprecedented safety and peace-of-mind for CPS workers and families.

UICUF Accomplishments in the COVID Era
While certainly modest compared to the exceptional agreement outlined above, UICUF has managed to secure significant accommodations for faculty as well since the pandemic began. These include safety considerations, such as pressuring the administration to confirm anyone wishing for remote teaching accommodations could have them before the start of Fall Semester, holding the line on working conditions, such as enforcing faculty’s academic freedom over classroom formats and recording of lectures, and financial considerations, like the extension of professional development funds, and a $1 million outlay for prep work to move certain classes into remote learning.

These victories are not without their flaws and compromises, not the least of which is the failure of the administration to yet put anything in a written agreement, enforceable under our contract. This is the most fundamental reason impact bargaining has continued: to ensure that concessions made by the administration are not merely lip-service. For the most part, this has not been a problem, but we have kept and will continue to keep them honest in executing COVID-related agreements, especially as we look at Fall semester planning and the deep uncertainty around budgets and in-person reopening schedules.

Solidarity,
UIC United Faculty

***

We hold regular office hours from 12-1pm Wednesday and Thursday each week. Use the following links to add them to your calendar:
Wednesday 12-1pm | Thursday 12-1pm

We issue regular updates via email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and on our website. We encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. If you want to contribute your story, pictures, video, or other content related to the activities of the union, email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. With your support, we are making UIC an even SAFER place to work and learn!

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05 Feb Solidarity With Chicago Teachers for Community Safety

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  • Chicago Teachers Union Fighting for Safety: CTU continues to push for safe reopening plans, and commitments to supporting the 80% of students who plan to remain remote even if schools reopen.
  • Strike Possible Next Week: If the city reopens schools without negotiating on key safety parameters like accommodations for those with vulnerable household members, there may be a strike as early as next week. See below for updates and ways to support.
  • UIC Budget Cuts Being Discussed: We have received confirmed reports that many units have been asked to plan contingencies for possible budget cuts this year. If you have information on these discussions occurring in your unit, please email us
  • New Deal For Higher Ed: AFT, AAUP, and faculty from institutions across the country are beginning a push for A New Deal For Higher Education. Join the kickoff call next Wednesday, Feb 10, 1pm CST!

 

Dear Members,

Even as a vaccine is being distributed, Chicago public school teachers are being pressured to return to as-yet unsafe school buildings–despite more than 80% of students, including the vast majority of students of color, saying they plan to remain remote. The Chicago Teachers Union is prepared to fight to reopen schools safely, and have put a safety strike on the table if the district locks-out teachers from their remote learning environments. The district and the Mayor have said they will reopen (and presumably lock teachers out if they don’t show in person) next Monday.

Make no mistake, this fight is our fight too. While most faculty have not experienced the same level of pressure to re-enter potentially unsafe in-person working environments, colleagues in some departments are working on campus, and our administration also has shown that they’re perfectly capable of acting on their own whims without waiting for faculty to weigh in. If this situation comes up closer to home, we will fight for our members’ rights to safety, and we hope our fellow unionists around the city and the state will support us. Please extend to our CTU teachers the same consideration you would want if you were in their shoes!

What is CTU Really Asking For?
CTU is asking the district to bargain over a safe return, and specifically have three major parameters that the district has yet to agree on:

 

  • Accommodations for workers with vulnerable household members who may be seriously endangered if they’re forced to return to unsafe conditions
  • A plan to vaccinate all workers in the CPS system who want it
  • A phase-in approach aligned with vaccinations to ensure re-openings are done safely

 

They will be trying through the weekend to find a deal, but CPS claims they do not have to bargain on these issues, and has said they’ve made their final offer. If no deal is reached, and teachers are locked out of remote classrooms as a result of continuing remote work for the safety of their families and students, CTU members have authorized a strike action in response.

What You Can Do To Help:

CTU is asking for help on a number of fronts. You can act RIGHT NOW to support them by doing the following:

 

  • Signing a letter to Governor Pritzker asking him to sign a bill restoring CTU’s right to bargain safety conditions. These rights were curtailed by unprecedented action at the state level by a prior legislature, though the bill didn’t touch other public unions.
  • Donating to a strike fund supporting workers who have already been locked out and whose pay has not been restored.
  • If you’re a CPS parent, share your story on why safety and a robust remote learning focus matters for you and your family.
  • Watching for updates on Facebook and Twitter on strike actions if a lockout occurs.

 

Budget Contingency Plans Underway in Some Units
UICUF has received strong evidence that many units have been asked to prepare contingencies in the event that their budgets were to be cut on the order of 10-15%. Needless to say, this is concerning, and we are keeping our eye on the situation. If you have heard any discussion of possible cuts or plans to accommodate hypothetical cuts, please email us confidentially at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com ASAP so we can develop a clearer picture of the situation.

New Deal For Higher Education
On a brighter note, next week will mark the kickoff event for A New Deal For Higher Education, a campaign led by union activists and university faculty, including our affiliate organizations, AFT and AAUP, who are working to imagine and implement a new vision for higher education in the US at all levels of government and governance. We’re excited to participate, and invite you to join the conversation yourself!

Solidarity,
UIC United Faculty

***

We hold regular office hours from 12-1pm Wednesday and Thursday each week. Use the following links to add them to your calendar:

Wednesday 12-1pm | Thursday 12-1pm

We issue regular updates via email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and on our website. We encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. If you want to contribute your story, pictures, video, or other content related to the activities of the union, email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. With your support, we are making UIC an even SAFER place to work and learn!

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29 Jan Answering the Provost’s Question on Post-Pandemic Teaching

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  • The Conversation is Already Happening: Did you know that the Provost has asked the deans to answer a series of questions about the bounds of pedagogical autonomy (i.e. who decides whether a class, office hour, advising session etc. should be online)?
  • Faculty Must Be Included in Decision Making: Your Deans were instructed to include you in the conversation. If they have not already done so, we strongly encourage faculty to be proactive and engage with leadership through shared governance mechanisms.
  • 1B Vaccine Priority Petition: Please consider signing IFT’s petition asking the state to include higher ed workers in the 1B vaccine distribution taking place right now.
  • Office Hours with Our Treasurer: Our Treasurer, Michael Scott, will join us for office hours Wed, 2/3/21, 12-1pm. Come with your thoughts or questions! Engineering folks are especially welcome to make use of Michael’s experience as the former College Rep.
  • A Victory for Our Hospital Workers: Our colleagues at the hospital have confirmed that since the petitions and other actions demanding their back pay, Admin has finally made their plans and timelines available. Thanks to all who signed!

 

Dear Members,

First, please consider signing IFT’s petition to expedite vaccine priority for higher ed workers (faculty, grad workers, and staff) who are slated to be included in the 1C vaccine distribution, estimated to be 1-2 months away. The petition asks for higher ed workers to join K-12 teachers and other public facing essential employees in the 1B vaccine distribution that is occurring right now. Many staff members and some faculty are even now working on campus and in public-facing capacities, and many more are doing so at other institutions across the state. We are asking that these individuals be prioritized as other essential workers are, in the current round of vaccinations.

Teaching Autonomy is an Academic Freedom Issue
Recently the union learned of a memo, sent by Provost Poser to college deans, asking them to consult with their faculty and report back by February 19th on how the university should think about delivering curriculum post-pandemic. On its face, this is not an unreasonable thing to be thinking about, but the details bear examining.

Several questions revolve around whether an individual faculty member should ever be required to teach or perform other duties online. We have a number of concerns with the framing of this issue, which we will elaborate on in an open letter to be published shortly. However, for now, we’ve seen some evidence of deans bringing these discussions to their faculty – and some evidence quite to the contrary. Deans were instructed to consult you, their faculty, and if they haven’t done so, we strongly encourage members to bring these issues to the fore through your shared governance channels where possible. If you would like help determining the best way of introducing this topic before Feb. 19th, please email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com.

Office Hours with Our College Reps
Next week, we welcome our Treasurer and former College of Engineering Representative, Michael Scott, to our office hour. Michael, is a long-time member and officer of the union, and we look forward to making his experience and expertise available to you. We encourage anyone interested to drop in, especially if you are an Engineering member with questions, concerns, or other ideas. As a reminder, office hours are held every week, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 12-1pm. See links above for the zoom invite, and links at the bottom of this email to add the sessions to your calendar.

Hospital Workers Won Unprecedented Transparency
Over the last several weeks, over 675 faculty and community members signed our petition demanding the administration honor hospital worker contracts and share their plans for executing promised pay increases that have been slow to materialize. This week, admin responded, and our union colleagues confirmed, that the process of distributing raises is now underway, with a detailed outline of their implementation plan. Our allies from SEIU have said that this is a level of transparency that they have never seen before, and they thank all their supporters. So thank you to everyone who signed our petition or took other actions!

Solidarity,
UIC United Faculty

***

We hold regular office hours from 12-1pm Wednesday and Thursday each week. Use the following links to add them to your calendar:

Wednesday 12-1pm | Thursday 12-1pm

We issue regular updates via email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and on our website. We encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. If you want to contribute your story, pictures, video, or other content related to the activities of the union, email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. With your support, we are making UIC an even SAFER place to work and learn!

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