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15 May NTT Face Urgent Challenges, UICUF to Attend Fall 2020 Planning Meeting

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  • NTT Caucus: Over 100 faculty participated in our first NTT Caucus this week, discussing urgent issues around job security, classroom safety, and the expectation of unpaid labor.
  • Unemployment Eligibility: 150 NTT faculty appointments will end TODAY. Those whose appointments have lapsed are encouraged to file for unemployment ASAP. UICUF remains committed to full renewal of NTT appointments going into Fall 2020.
  • Fall 2020 Planning Task Force: UICUF has been officially invited to the Fall 2020 Planning Task Force, meeting today. We will report on this meeting early next week.
  • Your Stories: Faculty input informs our actions on planning committees, in bargaining, and in the UIC Senate. Select stories are being published and distributed (anonymously and with permission) to highlight the personal impact of this crisis. Email your story to us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com!

 

NTT Faculty Gather to Discuss Urgent Issues
While we are all coping with uncertainty around the pandemic and its impact on our work, NTT faculty face especially urgent challenges. For that reason, we convened our first NTT Caucus this week, with over 100 NTT members attending. Many of these faculty face the prospect of a summer filled with uncompensated preparation for courses in the Fall that they have no guarantee they will actually be hired to teach. Some will be without an official appointment, and therefore without pay or health insurance, by the time you read this message.

At this time, the Caucus is contemplating a number of possible actions to encourage the administration to do the right thing and make reappointment commitments ASAP. The first upcoming opportunity to make our needs known will be the Provost’s office hours this coming Friday, April 22nd. Email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com if you want to be involved, or simply log in to share your concerns directly.

For those facing lapsed appointments right now, we strongly encourage you to file for unemployment benefits until such time as your appointment is renewed. You can learn more and file a claim at the Illinois Department of Employment Security website. While we cannot directly assist you with unemployment claims, you can email UICUF for advice on how to ensure your claim is processed fairly and efficiently. UICUF has already pushed for, and remains committed to, an across-the-board renewal of appointments for full-time faculty at UIC.  We will continue to advocate for this demand front and center during  our current Covid-related impact bargaining.

Invitation to the Fall 2020 Planning Task Force
Thanks to the pressure brought by hundreds of UIC United Faculty members, we have now (finally) been invited to participate in the Fall 2020 Planning Task Force. The task force should be meeting this afternoon, and our Executive Vice President, Aaron Krall, will be in attendance. This is a significant step forward in holding the administration accountable, but we intend to wait and see how this planning session unfolds before reporting back to you early next week. Among other things, we hope to point out the urgent issues NTT faculty face this summer as a truly time-sensitive priority the administration is obligated to address.

Faculty Share Our Stories
UIC faculty care deeply about the safety and success of our students, our academic peers, our university, and our community as a whole. UIC United Faculty is dedicated to enacting that vision of care and excellence, even under these truly unprecedented circumstances.That work is driven by your stories. We have encouraged you to send us your concerns and personal stories about how the COVID-19 Crisis has impacted you over the past few months, and the response has been overwhelming!

These are the stories we use to shape our internal decision-making as a union, and we felt that it was time to share some of them–with the administration, with the planning committee, and publicly on our website. All stories were published with the consent of the faculty members who sent them and have been anonymized to protect their identities. We want to encourage you to keep sending us your thoughts, your concerns, and your stories, so we can continue working toward a vision of UIC that is vibrant, safe, and strong moving forward.

 

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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!

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11 May Words are Not Enough

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  • Provost Poser publicly agreed to union and senate representation on the Fall 2020 Planning Task Force.
  • Despite repeated prior attempts by UICUF to put forth a candidate for this forum, administration has failed to follow through on their promise of access.
  • UICUF cannot accept this issue as settled until a representative is SEATED AT THE TABLE.
  • Please sign our petition to demand the administration meet their words with actions by accepting a union representative on the committee. Even more important: all possible future changes in work conditions must be negotiated with the union via ongoing impact bargaining BEFORE THEY ARE IMPLEMENTED

 

Saying One Thing and Doing Another
If you were present for the Provost’s virtual town hall earlier today, you will have heard that UICUF, as well as the University Senate, will now have formal membership on the Fall 2020 Planning Task Force. Thank you to the hundreds of union members who sent questions on this point prior to and during the meeting for pushing administration on this issue!

You will also have heard, however, that the Provost had already offered UICUF a seat at the table with no response from the union. After UICUF brought this demand to Impact Bargaining weeks ago, our officers immediately responded that they would participate (and we have the emails to prove it). We reinforced this in writing at that time, and then again restated our intention to participate in writing when administration later claimed they’d received no response. To date, they have not followed through on the offer to seat a union representative at the table.

This is a problematic pattern of the administration saying one thing and doing another, even as UICUF has worked strenuously to build a collegial and constructive dialogue during this crisis. They have spoken a great deal about coming together as a community, and now we expect them to stand by those words.

Words are not Enough
The major victory of our having a seat on the Task Force is, however, not nearly enough. Even more importantly, the administration has a legal obligation to return to the negotiating table for impact bargaining (see article XXII of our contract) – forging legally enforceable agreements about changes in our work conditions caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

To confirm that the administration is now indeed committed to working in a more constructive fashion with the union, we are demanding that the administration respond, immediately and in writing to the union’s Impact Bargaining team, confirming receipt of our intention to participate on the Fall 2020 Planning Task Force. We cannot consider this issue to be resolved until a union representative is SEATED on this task force.

To this end, we are launching a petition demanding that the administration respect the Faculty’s voice through our union, both in Fall 2020 planning, and at the impact bargaining table. We can no longer accept words alone on these points, but must see real action. Please sign our petition via the link below:

https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/give-faculty-a-voice-in-fall-2020-planning/

More Work to Do
As you know, access to planning committees and impact bargaining are tools that we can use to give faculty a voice on the unprecedented changes the university is currently undergoing. We need your participation, and your thoughts, to give these actions meaning. Of critical importance, we will shortly be inviting faculty to participate in our own NTT caucus, to formulate plans on protecting and supporting faculty without the benefit of long-term contracts. We also highly encourage you to send your thoughts, concerns, and any unanswered questions from today’s town hall, to us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com after you sign the petition, so that we can best represent you in these forums.

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We issue regular updates via email, FacebookTwitterYouTube, 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!

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01 May Time for Admin to Take Bargaining Seriously

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  • UICUF continued negotiating the impacts of COVID19 with the administration this week.
  • While we have convinced admin to reconsider policies like reopening the library against all public health advice, they have made it clear that they are not interested in putting any agreements in writing.
  • While UICUF is committed to being a good partner in working with university administration, our role is above all to advocate for faculty, as well as the students we serve.
  • We will, therefore, begin mobilizing for action around our key demands: The extension of all NTT contracts for one  year, the release of PD funds for broad use (including hiring student assistants), and transparency/inclusivity in planning for the next academic year.

Productive Conversation, or Meet-and-Ignore?
We met once again with representatives of the university administration this week to discuss our demands over the impacts of COVID19 policies on our contract, most of which we submitted in writing over a month ago. To date, we have convinced the university to reverse course on bad policy decisions, like reopening the library against all public health advice, and we have successfully pushed them to take positive actions like extending tenure clocks.

Unfortunately, we’ve had little traction on our most critical and time sensitive issues. At this point it does not appear that the university is willing to consider putting anything in a written form that can actually be signed as a binding agreement. That is to say that they are not acting as though they recognize our right to bargain these issues, despite the legal obligation to do so. This most recent session has made it clear that the administration may put our ideas in practice when it is convenient for them, but on serious issues like job security for vulnerable faculty, they’re perfectly happy to continue a policy that looks suspiciously like meet-and-ignore.

Three Key Issues
We currently have three key issues on the table which can only be adequately addressed through written agreements, negotiated via the impact bargaining process:

  • Expanding the use of Professional Development funds: we are by far the closest on this, having secured Provost Poser’s agreement in principle to allow PD funds intended for travel to be rolled over to the next academic year. We have proposed that ALL PD funds be opened up for broad teaching and research development purposes, including hiring student assistants (a common and uncontroversial practice that Labor Relations is digging its heels in over). These funds are already budgeted, but cannot be used under the current travel restrictions UIC has in place. The administration has told us to expect a response on this important matter soon.
  • Guaranteeing the Reappointment of NTT Faculty: over 100 NTT faculty appointments will end as soon as May 15th, with up to 200 more potentially ending in August. NTT faculty are the backbone of many departments, teaching the vast majority of first-year classes, and are an indispensable component in UIC’s teaching mission. While we acknowledge that budgets are tight, UIC must do everything in its power to retain qualified faculty, in order to protect jobs, retain expertise, and provide a stable learning environment for students. We have proposed that the administration commit to retaining all full-time faculty, and to do so ASAP to avoid confusion and uncertainty. If you are concerned about your own contractual status as an NTT faculty member, please reach out to us immediately so we can discuss how we might be able to help you.
  • Representation in 2020-2021 Planning: According to President Killeen’s recent announcement, a system-wide planning committee will be convened to plot a future course amid the pandemic, and a UIC committee will also meet under Provost Poser’s direction. Notably absent from either of these committees is the presence of any union representation, even though their work will de facto impact our union contract. Decisions impacting our contract must be made in discussion with the union. For this reason, we are demanding a seat at the table.

Preparing for Action
As we’ve said, these are demands that can’t simply be satisfied by an email announcement. With seemingly little appetite on the part of Admin to address these issues with binding agreements, if we want to move forward we must prepare to take more significant action. Our staff team and leadership are working on potential activities that will send the clear message: Administration cannot ignore its obligations to its workers.

They have told us that everyone will be expected to make sacrifices, but they seem to expect those sacrifices to be made by employees with no voice in those decisions. They must make a clear and public commitment to faculty — the heart of the university — that they will engage us before decisions are made, and they must commit to retaining ALL of the faculty who make this university work.

If you are interested in getting involved with planning and promoting actions around impact bargaining and the many critical issues facing us during this crisis, please email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com

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We issue regular updates via email, FacebookTwitterYouTube, 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!

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23 Apr Solidarity on Use of Student Evaluations

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  • UIC recently announced that faculty will have a choice of whether or not to have student evaluations from this semester included in their merit and promotion reviews.
  • Given the already imperfect nature of student evaluations, and the further disruption to teaching caused by the pandemic, UICUF has discouraged the use of student evaluations as tools to evaluate faculty, now more than ever.
  • While individual faculty have the option to use or not use evaluations, we believe discussing this choice with your peers at the academic unit level is warranted, and encourage faculty to make this choice as a group where possible.

 

The Current Student Evaluation Policy
To briefly summarize the current policy, UIC will give faculty the option of whether or not to use student evaluations from this semester in their merit or promotion considerations. While this policy is far from perfect (unit heads and chairs still have access to evaluations even if they are not technically allowed to use them), it does acknowledge how evaluations this semester may be skewed by radically altered teaching conditions.

The policy as it was published, however, doesn’t explain how faculty should go about making this declaration. This leaves open questions about the process, which in turn open questions about the implications of faculty members’ choices to exercise their options.

A Time for Collective Decisions
Since no details on implementation are explicitly laid out, it is likely that they will be made by each academic unit or college separately. If there is an opportunity to make recommendations through shared governance, we highly recommend faculty to engage in this option, and for units to include all faculty, including NTT faculty, in that decision-making process. More broadly, however, we want to encourage faculty in each academic unit to have a frank discussion with your peers about how to proceed, even if not in a formal shared governance context.

We recommend group decision-making on questions of when and how to opt in or out of using student evaluations so that no one, especially our more vulnerable members, can be singled out for their choice.

Questions to Consider
Certain questions may come up as critical points when discussing how to respond to the new policy:

 

  • When must a decision be made: should faculty make this decision before, or after, seeing their evaluations? Is there a deadline for such a decision to be made?
  • How should your decision be communicated and to whom: While a broad decision made through inclusive shared governance would be optimal, we recognize that may not be possible in all situations. If faculty must make this decision individually, what steps must be taken and who must be notified?
  • Opt-in or Opt-out: Are evaluations assumed to be usable for merit and promotion reviews, or are they presumed to be excluded? If you have influence over this question in your unit, we strongly encourage a presumption of exclusion of student evaluations, to minimize stigma against those who wish to exercise the right not to use them.
  • Can your unit decide as a group: as mentioned earlier, group decisions protect more vulnerable members from making decisions that could be stigmatizing. Even if you do not have the opportunity to recommend policy through shared governance, we highly recommend seeking a consensus among colleagues in your department.

 

UIC United Faculty’s staff are on hand to help you think through your options, or to organize a discussion or forum on these important questions within your academic unit. Email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com if you would like assistance!

A Brief Word on Impact Bargaining
To quickly update you on bargaining related to the impact of COVID-19 on UIC working conditions, we are still discussing a variety of issues with Administration. We have, in particular, had productive conversations about releasing professional development funds to be used for purposes beyond conference attendance and travel.

It is the union’s stance that these funds should be open to any use mutually agreed upon by a faculty member and their academic unit. Moreover, we’ve proposed that these funds should be automatically approved for any traditional professional development use, including hiring assistants and purchasing technology relevant to your work. While Provost Poser has signalled an agreement-in-principle on opening these funds, we hope that next week the administration will agree to put this in writing so that faculty can make full use of the funds to which they are contractually entitled.

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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!

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21 Apr An Example of Workload Policies Created by UIC Faculty

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  • UICUF has recommended faculty use shared governance to adopt workload policies protected by our contract ASAP.
  • We’ve just received a copy of the newly approved workload policy for the English Department, which we hope can be used as a template for other academic units.
  • Contact us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com for assistance in requesting and/or creating policies through shared governance.

 

The current UIC United Faculty Collective Bargaining Agreements require that each academic unit have a written workload policy developed through shared governance practices. Given the uncertainty around many aspects of work due to Coronavirus, we are recommending faculty begin working on creating these policies as soon as possible. We wanted to share a quick example of one department at UIC, the English Department, which has finalized one such policy. You can view a copy of the English Department’s workload policy on our website. We’ve also reproduced this policy below for your convenience.

It is our hope that this policy can serve as a template that will help other faculty groups craft policies of their own or review policies they already have in place. If you need help initiating this process, or determining if your department already has a workload policy in place, you can reach out to us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com or to your college’s union representative any time.

UIC English Department Policy on Workloads
Tenure Track Faculty:
The standard teaching load for tenure track faculty is two courses per semester (2-2). Tenure track faculty are expected to teach a range of courses across the curriculum, 100-500-level. Class size will vary, depending on the course and course level, with smaller seminars at the 400- and 500-level and larger classes for general education courses and English major core courses. In general, though not in all cases, classes that are larger than 25-30 students will be assigned a graduate TA.

In addition to teaching, tenure track faculty are expected to carry out a substantial course of research leading to publication and to perform substantial service for the department and university. Service expectations rise in accordance with rank, with Full Professors expected to take on the greatest service obligations and responsibilities.

Faculty taking on major administrative responsibilities will be granted comparable course release, unless otherwise negotiated.

Non-Tenure Track Faculty:
The standard teaching load for non-tenure track faculty is three courses/sections per semester (3-3). Class size will vary, depending on the course and course level, but, in general, courses/sections taught by non-tenure track faculty will not exceed 25 students. In general, though not in all cases, classes that are larger than 25-30 students will be assigned a graduate

In addition to teaching, lecturers; senior lecturers; and clinical faculty are expected to perform substantial service for the department and university. Service expectations rise in accordance with rank, with Senior Lecturers and Clinical Full Professors expected to take on the greatest service obligations and responsibilities.

Faculty taking on major administrative responsibilities will be granted comparable course release, unless otherwise negotiated.

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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!

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16 Apr Uncertainty in Academia and How You Can Prepare

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  • Our contract offers many protections on issues ranging from workload policies to evaluations, but faculty must take advantage of them through shared governance!
  • While we bargain the impacts of COVID19, we strongly recommend faculty review departmental workload, evaluation and reappointment policies and go to work now on creating them if they don’t already exist!
  • Contact us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com for assistance in requesting and/or creating policies through shared governance that will be guaranteed by our contract!

 

It’s no secret that academia is facing a great deal of uncertainty right now, and faculty will very likely face changes in the future that we can’t immediately predict. While UIC United Faculty has a right to bargain new contractual agreements over the impact of COVID-19, we want to remind our members that we already have a variety of tools to ensure fair treatment in these unpredictable times. Specifically, we fought for and won provisions in our current contract that give faculty the right to shape workload, evaluation, and reappointment policies through shared governance in their departments.

UICUF strongly encourages any faculty member reading this message to consider how they can ensure that their department has policies in place for workloads, evaluations, and reappointment processes. We want to further encourage you to reach out to us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com or to your college’s union representative for help crafting these policies if they are not already in place.

Defining Workload
After our current contract was finally settled, we emerged with robust protections for workloads. This was one of the hardest fought issues in our negotiation with the administration, and represents a powerful tool for faculty to exert influence over working conditions. Critically, the contract stipulates that workloads must be defined through shared governance at the academic unit level, and that once defined, they can’t be changed without faculty input. Of course, to enjoy the benefits of this contractual protection, your academic unit has to first take steps to create the policy!

In light of current conditions, we strongly recommend that even if you already have a written policy in place, you consider revisiting it. This policy should address the number and size of classes expected to be taught in a semester/academic year, as well as any administrative, research, or service duties faculty are responsible for. At this time, we also recommend considering how this policy might be used to define fair conditions for remote work.

Reviewing Evaluation Policy
All academic units are required by contract and University policy to have a written policy in place regarding how evaluations are done. Per university policy, FPPG Section 701, there are a number of things that every academic unit must include, such as self-evaluations, and the policy must be reviewed every 5-7 years through shared governance. In light of current guidance on the use of teaching evaluations, we strongly recommend faculty review their academic unit policy before evaluations are administered this semester.

Reappointment Procedures
Per our contract and University policies, reappointment procedures MUST BE DEFINED in unit bylaws. Unfortunately, many departments have not met this minimum standard. If your department has not defined this procedure, now is a critical moment to do so.

We highly encourage any faculty member reading this to get involved, and to contact your union via our general email, UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com for information and support.

 

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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!

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08 Apr The Inequities Exposed by COVID-19 are Hardly Novel

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  • COVID-19 may present many new challenges for UIC, but it’s also exposing and exacerbating inequities that have been here all along.
  • As we join together to protect the health and safety of our community, unequal access to the internet, lack of practical spaces for remote work, and the precarity of both students and workers remind us that a lot of folks were struggling even before the pandemic.
  • For these reasons, we think that “back-to-normal” isn’t good enough.
  • IMPACT BARGAINING: Our first session with administration will be tomorrow morning. We will report on the proceedings in a separate update.

 

It has been several weeks since the COVID-19 crisis caused UIC to shut down most in-person activities, and the second week since classes have resumed in mostly remote formats. While the situation is far from normal, some of the initial shock has begun to wear off, and the UIC community is doing its best to get back to at least some sense of normalcy. The big problem though, is that normal for a lot of faculty, students, and staff, wasn’t that great to begin with, and conditions under the pandemic have only exacerbated many peoples’ struggles.

Some of the clearest and most intractable examples come from the stories of people trying to adjust to their new work-from-home realities. In an ideal world, we might imagine students and faculty simply going back to their comfortable, internet equipped homes, secluding themselves in their office or bedroom, and logging in to class. But that’s not the reality for everyone, or even most people.

In reality, even some of the best case scenarios are fraught with challenges, like trying to take care of and even educate children while schools are closed. And it gets harder if, for example, your school district doesn’t have the resources to make remote-learning practical. And that’s not even touching on the possibility that your home may simply not be a suitable place to work at the best of times, which these are clearly not.

For the more precarious, COVID-19 may mean your position, your funding, or your scholarship may be about to expire with no promise of renewal or apparently even much empathy from your employer. Or maybe you have to go to work knowing your work is so invisible to those in charge that they haven’t even thought about how to protect you as you come in contact with potentially sick people.

COVID-19 and the move toward remote work may be new territory for all of us, but too many of the injustices we’re now seeing really clearly have been here for a long time. Going “back-to-normal” without looking these societal issues in the face would be a grave failing indeed, even as there is great pressure to ignore anything beyond the immediate health crisis before us. But we as educators do have choices and agency in how our institutions function, and we can choose to fight for a better new “normal” than the one that came before.

While we won’t be changing the world overnight, tomorrow UICUF will be going into our first official impact bargaining sessions with the administration. We intend to push for, among other things, a much broader commitment to faculty retention, especially for our most vulnerable members. We are also working on this and other issues with our campus union coalition. Look out for more updates in the coming days.  

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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!

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02 Apr Union Advocacy in the Wake of COVID-19

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  • While we all have been busy preparing to work remotely, UICUF has been advocating for faculty, staff, and our students as work conditions change.
  • We’ve already achieved some goals, like deferring tenure deadlines, reaffirming faculty discretion on course delivery, and ensuring the library won’t reopen under unsafe conditions.
  • We are also working on other issues our members have raised, such as commitments to reappoint NTT faculty, protections against skewed student evals, and the carry-over and/or timely payout of PD funds.
  • Additionally, our parent union, AFT, has announced availability of trauma counseling for any member diagnosed with COVID19 or experiencing other traumatic life events.

 

As you all know, UIC has undertaken rapid and sweeping changes over the last few weeks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While everyone has been preparing to work under these new conditions, UIC United Faculty has been advocating to make sure that each policy change is implemented fairly, and that impacts to our members’ lives and livelihoods are not overlooked.

What We’ve Achieved So Far
Since UIC announced the move to remote work and learning, we’ve successfully advocated for:

  • Closure of the library: Union library workers were instrumental in having all campus libraries, inherently high risk environments for workers and students, closed indefinitely to protect the health of our community. This is a reversal of proclamations by top administrators that the library would remain open, heedless of any health risks.
  • Extending the Tenure Clock: After input from UICUF, Provost Poser announced that faculty can apply to extend their tenure clocks for up to a year, even if they are in the final year before review. While definitely a positive development, we will continue advocating for more time to be given if needed.
  • Reaffirming Faculty Rights: In response to onerous and contract violating release forms being imposed on faculty as a condition to work remotely, UICUF was able to have the administration reaffirm, in writing, faculty’s rights in a remote work environment. This includes exclusive intellectual property rights to your course materials, and their rights to autonomy in presenting courses, including using asynchronous methods.
  • Reasserting Shared Governance on Grading Decisions: The administration, after pressure from UICUF, reaffirmed their contractual commitment to consult with the faculty senate on any changes to grading policy.
  • Roll-Out of Online Tools (Zoom): Zoom, a global standard for online collaboration was not fully supported until we brought it to the attention of the administration. Now, all faculty have full professional access to use zoom for meetings and remote classes.

 

Things We’re Still Advocating For
Of course, our work is far from over. We continue to advocate for the following considerations and protections:

  • Health and Safety: We continue to advocate that workspaces be appropriately equipped for the health and safety of workers and students. This includes not only proper cleaning and access to sanitizer for those who do have to work on-site, but also increased physical security while the campus remains largely depopulated.
  • Reappointment Protections for NTT: We are advocating for a robust commitment by the administration to reappoint all NTT faculty for the next academic year. We’ve also pushed for visiting faculty applying for permanent positions to be given a one-year extension to their appointments if search processes are disrupted by the pandemic.
  • Timely Payout and Rollover of PD Funds: We’ve demanded that the administration dispel uncertainty on professional development funds, left in limbo from UIC’s travel ban and conference cancellations/postponements, by rolling over funds through to the end of our contract period in 2022. We’ve also asked that guidance be disseminated to ensure any outstanding reimbursements are honored regardless of conference status.
  • Protections Against Skewed Evaluations: Student evaluations are a flawed measure of performance in the best of times. With the rapid shift to online learning and the pursuant impact this will have on course quality and accessibility, we are asking that all faculty be held harmless for negative evaluations this semester.

 

Resources for Faculty and Students
We have access to a number of resources to help faculty, staff, and students affected directly by COVID-19. You can visit UIC’s Flames Fund for details on funds for students and healthcare workers. We also now have access to a special benefit from AFT, offering up to 21 hours of trauma counseling for those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or who have experienced other personal traumas. You will need your membership ID number to sign up, so if you do not know it, feel free to use this form to request it, or you are welcome to email us confidentially at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com for assistance.  

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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!

 

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25 Mar FAQ on Work Conditions During COVID-19 Crisis

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  • After hundreds of conversations with faculty, we have an FAQ addressing some of the most common questions we’ve heard.
  • This is our most up-to-date knowledge, but the situation remains fluid and we will try to update you as we learn more.
  • We strongly recommend you reach out to the union at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com if you have any work-related concerns

 

UIC United Faculty has spoken with hundreds of faculty in the past week regarding the transition to remote instruction and will continue checking in over the weeks ahead. This documentation focuses on the questions we’ve heard the most, and reflects our most up-to-date knowledge of the situation, although we acknowledge the situation seems to change overnight. We will make every effort to keep our information up to date, and communicate to our members additional changes as they become clear.

Do I need to sign new forms or agreements to work remotely?
No, nor are such forms enforceable if you have already signed them. You do not need to sign any additional forms or agreements to work from home, as any such agreement represents changes to your working conditions which must be negotiated with the union. Furthermore, faculty cannot individually sign away rights granted through our collective bargaining agreement, such as exclusive intellectual property rights to course materials. To repeat, this means that even if you have already signed such a form or agreement, it cannot be enforced.

Examples of these forms that we are aware of include the UIC HR Telecommuting Agreement and any form of release or permission to record video and audio.

Does UIC or the Board of Trustees own the content I develop for remote classes?
No, except if the course is developed as part of an explicit work-for-hire agreement, separate from your regular duties. University statutes and our union contract stipulate that “faculty members shall retain ownership rights to traditional academic copyrightable work.” That includes any and all materials developed for use on-line or through alternative teaching methods. Faculty can expect to enter into a separate agreement, including compensation, if they are asked to create online content for the university’s use, and you cannot be compelled to do so.

Can I be ordered to deliver synchronous courses online?
No, faculty have explicit autonomy in how to prepare and deliver their courses. Per our contract and university statutes, faculty have broad discretion in how to deliver course content within the bounds of university policy. In-person classes, labs, etc. are currently suspended, but beyond that order you may choose what form of content delivery is most appropriate for you and your classes.

Can I choose to continue to hold in-person classes or work on-site?
No, you cannot choose to work in your office or classroom during the shelter-in-place order currently in effect state-wide. It is also our understanding that even once the shelter-in-place order is lifted, the suspension of in-person classes, labs, etc. will remain in effect for UIC through the end of the semester, and could be extended further if needed.

Can I be ordered to work under conditions that seem unsafe?
No, but you need to be able to show that unsafe conditions exist as described by OSHA or the CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines. See also the US Department of Labor page on COVID-19. Essential personnel may be asked to continue working, but should be provided with necessary safeguards to reasonably ensure protection from exposure to COVID-19. Please contact UICUF at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com for help if you are being asked to continue working but have not been provided adequate protection for the continuation of your duties.

How do I find out if I am considered “Essential?”
At this time, the UIC Administration has not made any direct statements about what positions are considered essential. We have been advised that faculty can ask their supervisors for clarification if they are unsure of their status. If you feel you have been inappropriately designated as essential, contact the union at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com.

How will the university handle merit, reappointment, promotion, and tenure decisions considering disruptions from the current crisis?
As of 3/25/20, the Administration has announced an option will be made available to extend tenure clocks by up to a year. We are currently still discussing other holds and extensions for NTT faculty with the Administration. Specifically, we are strongly advocating that faculty be held harmless for any failures to meet anticipated milestones (such as classroom observations) in a timely manner due to COVID-19.

Can my supervisor perform class observations during an online class session?
Maybe, but this would be a significant shift in the conditions under which such an evaluation would normally be performed, and cannot be assumed to represent the same performance, either by faculty or students, as would be the case during an in-person class. We are bringing proposals to the Administration to hold faculty harmless if required observations, evaluations or other milestones are disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we recommend that faculty not agree to any alternative arrangements they do not feel comfortable with in the meantime.

We have had several instances of faculty successfully pushing back against online observations. If your supervisor insists on an online observation against your wishes, contact us ASAP at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com.

What is happening with professional development funds?
No decisions have been made regarding changes to reimbursements or timelines to use PD funds. We are strongly advocating for funds to be rolled over through the remainder of the contract period (August 2022), and that faculty be reimbursed promptly for conference and travel expenses they have already paid for in good faith, even if those conferences are postponed indefinitely.

Do I have to use leave time if I am sick with COVID-19?
No. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 provides special leave provisions for COVID-19 related illness and/or caring for ill family members. The UI System has published their policy related to the Family first Act here.  This leave is good for 2 weeks up to 80 hours for full time workers. Per UIC’s Human Resources guidance on faculty leave in general, most faculty also have 13 days of sick leave per year, plus up to 12 additional days which are accrued throughout the year. Note that you only need to use leave if you are personally unable to work, not if your employer has not provided you the means to work remotely and/or safely. Under current orders from Governor Pritzker, workers will not be denied pay if they are ready to work but unable to do so due to safety concerns related to COVID-19.

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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!

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19 Mar Transition Tips and UICUF Response During the Pandemic

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  • UICUF wants to ensure a smooth transition for faculty during the COVID-19 response.
  • We have initiated demands for impact bargaining over changes to working conditions during this time.
  • UICUF will also begin doing member check-ins by phone over the coming days to find out if you are getting everything you need to succeed under the new working conditions.
  • We strongly recommend you reach out to the union proactively at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com if you have any work-related concerns.

 

Last week, Coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, came into much sharper focus in our lives here at UIC. The local and system administrations have issued responses to the growing impact the virus is having on education and campus life, and we have submitted our own statement regarding shifting working conditions.

In addition to maintaining the safety of our members and students, we want to emphasize that the current situation is not an invitation to suspend shared governance, faculty autonomy, academic freedom, intellectual property rights, or workload norms at UIC. We also want to reinforce the reality that rapidly developed online curricula will not necessarily meet the same standards as purpose-built online courses, and that not all students may be equally prepared to take advantage of such online offerings. In short, we hope that a sense of understanding and generosity is extended to all members of the university community in this time of uncertainty.

Transitional Resources
There is a growing pool of resources for faculty to explore both in protecting yourselves and your students, and in transitioning your work during the COVID-19 response. We’ve compiled a few links here for your convenience:

AAUP guidance on university policies, online course transition, etc

Joint AFT and AAUP statement of principles

Guidance about accessible online teaching from the UIC Disability Cultural Center

The UIC COVID19 website – (Regularly updated info on UIC’s response to COVID-19)

And for those with students who lack easy access to the internet off campus, effective Monday, March 16, 2020, Comcast is offering 2 months free internet to new customers in response to recent emergency measures associated with the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Impact Bargaining
While the situation is evolving, we have initiated a demand to bargain with the administration over changing work conditions pursuant to the new policies created by university’s COVID-19 response. Regardless of circumstances precipitating these changes, it is the union’s duty to undertake negotiations on our members’ behalf to assure their contractual rights are not impacted by unilateral policy change. That being said, we do not intend to slow or restrict timely responses to the current situation, but rather hope to ensure that the transition in working conditions is smooth and fair for our members.

Member Check-Ins
Over the coming days and weeks, UICUF will be doing member check-ins by phone. We know that everyone is working hard to accommodate changes during this transitional period, and want to make sure our members have everything they need to succeed under the new conditions.

If you are experiencing immediate workplace concerns, whether they be a lack of information, unclear or inappropriate expectations, or challenges maintaining your teaching or research, we encourage you to proactively reach out to the union via UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com.

Our Fellow Workers
While we do not represent the vast majority of workers at UIC, we hope you will treat every worker, from grad assistants to custodial staff, with understanding and respect in these difficult times. Many workers do not have access to paid sick leave, or obvious ways to work remotely. We will be supporting our union colleagues, and workers throughout the university community, in calling for universal paid sick leave for all workers so as best to protect their safety, and public health at UIC.  

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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!

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