13 Aug UICUF Position on Masking and Distancing
- UICUF Policy Position on Masking:We strongly support the current universal indoor masking policy at UIC. As there is no official policy on enforcement of mask rules, faculty discretion must be honored in regard to managing our own classrooms. We recommend collaborative and/or progressive approaches to encourage student masking.
- UICUF Policy Position on Distancing:UIC communications and enrollment policy suggest there is currently no plan to apply distancing guidelines on campus, though this may change. UICUF supports maintaining 6ft distancing guidelines, until such time as UIC meets the CDC definition of a fully vaccinated campus. Faculty concerned about crowding should ask their units ASAP for support meeting 6ft distancing guidelines.
This is the second installment in our series of policy positions on critical elements of UIC’s fall reopening plans. In our last message, we discussed policy regarding remote/alternative work accommodations. Today, we are discussing positions on two major pieces of policy affecting campus safety: Masking and Distancing.
Regardless of other safety precautions being put in place, it remains UICUF’s position that the best thing individual faculty can do to protect ourselves, our students, and our communities, is to get vaccinated and comply with UIC’s vaccine confirmation process. This will help all parties involved have a better understanding of the health and safety landscape we face this fall, and may have a significant impact on how classes are arranged.
Current Policy: All individuals on campus are required to be masked while indoors, regardless of vaccine status. There is currently no official expectation nor restriction in place regarding faculty enforcing masking in their classrooms, but faculty already have the right to manage our classrooms in regard to dangerous or disruptive behavior.
UIC United Faculty Position:
Given the ongoing health risks posed by COVID-19 and the increase in new variants that appear to be vaccine resistant, along with the physical limitations of ventilation in public spaces and classrooms, UICUF strongly supports universal indoor masking on campus.
Regarding enforcement, UICUF has discussed our concerns with the admin on what role faculty play in enforcing the mask mandate. They have so far signaled that faculty will not be responsible for mask enforcement.
It is the position of the union that faculty discretion on enforcing or not enforcing mask policies must be honored insofar as it already applies to classroom management. UICUF views the creation of any future enforcement policy to be a mandatory subject of collective bargaining. Furthermore, no faculty should be disciplined for acting or not acting within the context of managing their classroom.
Guidance to Faculty
It is recommended that faculty consider collaborative and progressive approaches to encouraging safe behavior in their classes. Options such as syllabus agreements, discussion on safe classroom behavior with students, clear warnings when safe conduct is not respected, and escalating responses to repeated issues should be considered whenever possible.
It is further recommended that faculty seek support from UICUF if you are facing challenges with classroom management, are not getting the support you need from your Unit EOs, or are being directed to act in a manner you feel is inconsistent with your reasonable rights to manage your own classroom.
Current Policy: Course enrollment policies appear to be based on an assumption of full vaccination, with no distancing requirements being taken into account. On July 21, 2021, UIC stated in an email to faculty: “As we approach the fall semester and achieve a fully vaccinated environment, we anticipate no longer requiring social distancing indoors in classrooms and other campus facilities effective Aug. 16.” It was later stated in an email to all faculty on August 6, 2021: “Given the dynamic situation with the Delta variant, we are closely monitoring public health recommendations and we may need to adjust physical distancing requirements for the fall.”
UIC United Faculty Position:
The absence of distancing policies appears to be based on the expectation that UIC will reach the CDC definition of a fully vaccinated campus, which would allow for the loosening or dropping of mitigation activities including physical distancing. A fully vaccinated campus is one on which all individuals present are verified to either be fully vaccinated, or exempt.
Based on vaccination reporting statistics, however, UIC does not currently appear to meet the necessary requirements for this status. It is unclear when or if the university will meet this criteria before the Fall 2021 semester begins.
Therefore, it is UICUF’s position that UIC must adhere to the CDC guidance for campuses that are not fully vaccinated. This includes providing signage and markers in all public places — hallways, restrooms, elevators, central offices and classrooms — to remind people to follow the 6 feet distancing guidance. In classrooms where this is not possible due to enrollment and capacity, the university should work with the faculty member to find a reasonable solution (e.g. finding a larger classroom on campus) based on the number of students expected to attend class in person. Where practicable, faculty may space out students and/or block off seating to allow distancing.
Guidance to Faculty
If you are concerned about crowding in your classroom or other work and meeting spaces, we recommend that you consult with your unit EO immediately to discuss possible solutions. UICUF can assist as needed.
UIC United Faculty
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