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.
President, UIC United Faculty