10 Aug Can We Trust Our Administration to Keep Us Safe?
- Low on Trust and Out of Time: UICUF is rapidly losing trust in the administration to protect students, faculty, and staff, as contract negotiations collapse without producing credible answers on health and safety for a campus reopening in just 2 weeks.
- Empty Promises: Admin has suggested they’ll implement increased cleaning, social distancing, and testing/contact tracing, but our staff and nursing union colleagues’ experiences cast deep doubt on their dedication and capacity to carry out these plans.
- Facts on The Ground: SEIU reports ongoing, unacknowledged deaths and severe illnesses over the summer, alongside denied PPE requests, a 50% shortfall in custodial headcount, and a risk assessment process designed to produce denials.
- What Now?: Sign the IFT Higher Ed Council’s demands for safe returns to campus immediately and join us for an all-hands membership meeting Thursday, 3pm.
Where We Are Today
We have no agreements on health and safety. We have no confidence that the administration will return to bargaining in good faith. We have no trust that the administration’s unilateral announcements on safety measures are practical, feasible, or credible. And we have no more time to lose.
Our administration has been offering a master class in projecting confidence this summer, while behind the scenes they’ve done little to ensure a safe return to campus. Rather, they’ve spent this time undermining contractual obligations to bargain that would force them to make meaningful commitments on safety to their stakeholders, including students, faculty, and staff. Last week, with Provost Poser notably absent, they walked back promises of a written memorandum of understanding on agreements reached through negotiations thus far, and attempted to describe the process as being “at impasse”– a term with serious legal ramifications, and, in this case, used improperly.
The administration simultaneously reaffirmed their intention to simply impose conditions under negotiation without reaching an agreement. Their latest move, to drop in-person requirements for certain freshman-oriented classes, exemplifies this kind of decision making, which may sound good but affects barely a handful of the nearly 200 faculty still scheduled to teach in person.
In short, top administrators continue to show us that they have no intention of working with us, even on critical issues of health and safety, with just two weeks before some faculty and many students are forced to return to campus.
Promising More Than They Can Deliver
Meanwhile, a canvas of our union colleagues performing nursing, custodial, maintenance, and staff duties on campus and in the hospital gives us a grim preview of what faculty can expect on August 24th.
People are dying. Many more have gotten sick. SEIU reports that this has been an ongoing phenomenon throughout the summer, despite there being only a skeleton staff working on campus. But our administrators have done little to acknowledge the danger. They’ve also failed to mention that the custodial headcount was 50% below operational requirements before the pandemic began–or that they have been receiving, and denying, demands from hospital staff for PPE since March. Even plans for testing and contact tracing, which were laid out clearly for the Urbana-Champaign Campus, have only been hinted at for UIC, leaving open questions about the will and ability to implement these complex programs in such an alarmingly short time.
Our SEIU (university and hospital staff) and INA (nurses) colleagues are actively preparing for strike votes right now over these issues, and we will provide them with all the support that we can offer. There is little reason to believe that faculty will be treated differently, or that these issues will suddenly disappear with the influx of thousands of people returning to campus this Fall.
Time to Act
We’ve worked diligently to persuade the administration, through collaboration, shared governance, and bargaining, to take our demands for a safe Fall reopening seriously. They’ve casually and negligently squandered these opportunities for discourse. That is why our Representative Assembly, the elected body of faculty representing each college and governing our union, has decided to call an all-members meeting.
We need you, and all of our members, to decide what should come next, and help us make it happen. Join us for our member meeting this Thursday, 8/13, from 3-4:30PM as we discuss how best to keep our members, our students and our campus community safe.
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 better place to work and learn!