- Town Hall: After suggestions from UICUF, the administration held a Town Hall last night on the protocols for resuming in person classes next Monday.
- Union Input Helped Shape Policy: The administration has accepted or moved closer to several union proposals, such as expanding testing availability, providing masks, and holding the town hall. These came directly out of input we received from members.
- Remote Work Accommodations: We want to continue reminding members that there is specific UIC policy on remote work accommodations that empowers Unit Heads to grant flexibility for circumstances including household risk and child/elder care responsibilities. You can also seek ADA-based accommodations via the Office of Access and Equity.
- Memorializing Union President Janet Smith: Janet passed away earlier this week. She will be deeply missed, but also fondly remembered. At this time we are soliciting any photos and stories members wish to share for a virtual memorial wall on our website. Email us anything you wish to share at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. Further memorial plans will be forthcoming soon.
UIC Admin announced officially that we will be returning to in-person learning as the primary mode for classes starting Monday, 1/24. After input we passed on from our members, the Administration also decided to host a Town Hall, the recording of which should be available soon. We are pleased that this and other positive moves have been forthcoming from the administration since our meetings with Provost Reyes over the last several weeks. While some of the steps we proposed in those meetings did not make it into the final guidance for the return, we’re satisfied that they incorporated a significant portion of the input we offered.
Union Input Helps Shape Policy
While we are not the only stakeholders to consult with the administration on back-to-campus policies, we do want to note a number of issues that we’ve seen real movement on since we brought them up. All of the issues we discussed with the Provost during this period were formulated via input from our members, who had a lot to say via both email and one-on-one conversations. Here are a few of the things we’re happy to see positive movement on:
- Masks: We encouraged admin to consider providing masks, especially high-quality N95 or KN95 masks, and we have now been informed that the university will provide roughly 130 thousand KN95 masks to the campus community, and an additional 140 thousand disposable “procedure” masks.
- Testing: Following conversations in which we suggested significant expansions of testing capacity, we see that there will now be extended hours for testing from 8-6pm, and hours this coming sunday. The window for testing was also clarified as being within 72 hours after returning to campus.
- Reminders to Unit Heads on Flexibility Policy: While the flexibility and remote work policy is far from ideal, it does provide several paths for reasonable accommodations when needed. Unfortunately, Unit Heads have been steadily drifting away from, and/or misinterpreting this policy. Pursuant to conversations we’ve had with the Provost, this policy is being reaffirmed and Unit Heads reminded of their roles and responsibilities therein.
- Process for Temporary Shifts to Remote/Hybrid: though it is buried in outside links in the announcement, we did get agreement on how departments will create processes for temporary cessation of in-person classes under certain circumstances. These circumstances may include a major uptick in absences in a particular class, for example. Unit Heads should be developing these policies immediately, and in consultation with faculty, and elected executive or advisory committees more specifically. Critically, requests to go remote or hybrid should be made if conditions in your in-person class change in a way that interferes with the teaching and learning environment. These requests must be responded to within 24-48 hours. You can see this policy here, under the “Temporary Changes in Course Modality” dropdown. Because it is difficult to find, we’ve reproduced it at the end of this message.
Accommodations for Flexible/Remote Work
We are still receiving questions about remote work accommodations. The university policy on accommodations is here. It clearly states that Unit Heads have the power, and are encouraged, to offer flexible arrangements where possible, to accommodate not only personal COVID risk, but also household circumstances such as vulnerable family members or increased caregiver responsibilities. There is also an option to seek ADA-based accommodations through the Office of Access and Equity. If you are having problems seeking an accommodation, of course, please let us know at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com.
Memorializing Janet Smith
As we sadly announced earlier this week, our union president, Janet Smith passed away Monday night. We will be planning several memorial activities in the near future, but for now we encourage you to write to us with your photos and/or stories about Janet. We will be creating a virtual memorial on our website. We will be planning a live and potentially in-person memorial event for those who wish to attend in the near future. Please send any remembrances to us by email at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com.
UIC United Faculty
University Policy: Temporary Changes in Course Modality
- Our goal is to offer the majority of UIC courses face-to-face on campus during the Spring 2022 semester. We also want to effectively and flexibly handle Covid surges so that our students, faculty, and staff are successful.
- Given the current dynamics of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, we anticipate situations where larger numbers of students will miss classes and/or where faculty will not be able to teach face-to-face for short periods of time due to COVID-19-related circumstances.
- Our contact tracing team, using data from the classroom attendance tracking app Acadly and the HealthCheck app, as well as following the guidance provided by Dr. Bleasdale and Dr. Barish, will be able to identify courses with high numbers of students or faculty who cannot attend in person because they tested positive or because of exposure to individuals that have tested positive.
- For cases of high COVID-19 incidences in a class during Spring 2022, using data provided by the contact tracing team about the duration of the course specific surge, it could be beneficial for specific face-to-face courses to be moved to online or hybrid modalities for a short period of time to allow the surge of COVID-19-related incidents to subside.
- By January 24, deans should work with department chairs, with input from faculty and elected faculty advisory committees, to develop and communicate specific guidelines, communication protocols, and processes for faculty to request changing teaching modalities for their course(s) for specified, short periods of time when these situations emerge. Faculty are best positioned to propose modifications and changes in teaching modalities that would serve their students better as circumstances around high incidences of COVID-19 evolve in their classes.
- Decisions for faculty requests to temporarily modify course delivery modalities should be done expediently and preferably within 24 hours, but in no more than 48 hours. Decisions should be made using the guidelines provided by deans and department chairs and the information provided by the contact tracing team or other sources of information, such as direct communication between students and faculty.
- It will be important for faculty to effectively inform students of these temporary changes in instructional modalities, the specific expectations associated with them, and the dates in which the modifications will occur. We ask faculty to (a) coordinate with their department chairs when changes in course modality are made and (b) share communications sent to students with their department chairs. Department chairs should provide this information to their dean’s office, which in turn will inform the provost’s office.
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!