News

17 Mar UIC Faculty Deliver Intent to Bargain

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 17th 

CONTACTS
Xochitl Bada, UICUF Bargaining Co-Chair
xochitlbada@gmail.com 

Charitianne Williams, UICUF Communications Chair
773-531-3265 charitianne@gmail.com 

UIC Faculty Deliver Intent to Bargain
Union intends to strengthen support for faculty and students in new contract.

CHICAGO- The faculty union at the University of Illinois at Chicago delivered their intent to bargain a new faculty contract to new UIC Provost Javier Reyes yesterday. This marks the first step in the bargaining process. The current UIC United Faculty (UICUF) contract expires August 15th, 2022.

“Faculty have struggled to cover the institutional gaps that in the last two years have been made so apparent in UIC’s infrastructure,” said Aaron Krall, Acting UIC UF President and Co-chair of UICUF’s bargaining committee. “This new contract is an opportunity for leadership at UIC to work together and create a stronger, more resilient university for our entire community.”

Unlike many universities across the nation, UIC has continued to grow during the pandemic, and in many ways faculty have had to step in  to shoulder new demands and greatly increased workloads without appropriate institutional support. 

“We submitted our intent to bargain today because our members want to engage and request transparency in how the university budget is distributed, how funds are managed, and where the money is allocated to enhance the teaching and research mission of the university,” said Xóchitl Bada, Co-chair of UICUF’s bargaining committee.

The union will propose contract measures to strengthen support for students,  increase mentoring and career advancement opportunities for faculty; protect faculty from bullying, harassment, and discrimination in the workplace;  outline a clear and fair disciplinary process; and make faculty input more concrete at all levels of university governance. 

The UIC United Faculty (Local 6456) represents all full-time tenure and non-tenure track faculty at UIC. UICUF is affiliated with the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professionals.  

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12 Mar Member Meeting, Grad Picket, School Strikes 

  • UICUF Member Meeting 3/16 at Hull House: Join us for our Spring Member Meeting on Wed 3/16, 3-4:30pm at Hull House or remotely via zoom. Members should have received a zoom link to participate via email.


  • Grad Worker Info Picket: Support our grad worker colleagues by joining them for their informational picket regarding their own bargaining demands for a fair contract, immediately before the meeting, 1-3pm in front of Student Center East on Halsted.


  • Public School Strikes Near Chicago: Proviso and Patton school district employees are currently on strike for a fair contract. Please support them by donating to the strike fund!

Dear Colleagues,

Our Spring Member Meeting is less than a week away! We will be holding the meeting both in-person at the Jane Addams Hull House, and remotely via zoom. Please display your full name so we can verify your membership when you log in. All members are highly encouraged to attend, and non-members can join at the door. Every effort will be made to ensure both methods of participation are fully enabled and interactive. 

Our agenda for the meeting will include:

  • A remembrance for our late President, Janet Smith
  • Union leadership elections
  • A report on bargaining from our grad worker colleagues, UIC GEO
  • Presentation of the full bargaining team and platform

We will end the meeting with a march at 4:30pm to the Chancellor’s Office to present our demand to bargain. This is the step which formally initiates the bargaining process with the administration, and the more members we can have join us, the better.

UIC GEO Information Picket

As we’ve reported in recent weeks, our colleagues in the Graduate Employees Organization are also bargaining for a fair contract. Just this week, they began the mediation process, with significant distance between their positions and those of the administration on several key articles, like pay, fee elimination, protections for survivors, and 9-month appointments. They will be holding an information picket outside of Student Center East on Halsted from 1-3pm, immediately before our meeting, and we hope you will wear your UICUF t-shirts and take some time to join the picket before coming to the member meeting. We share many of the same issues and concerns, so supporting their negotiations for a fair contract will show the administration that we stand united where it really matters.

Active Strikes Near Chicago

At the time of this writing, there are two active educator strikes going on in the region. Patton School workers and Proviso workers are both picketing for a fair contract. You can support either or both of them by donating through the IFT Strike Fund, and you can follow Proviso’s efforts via their facebook page. Please support our fellow educators any way you can!

Sincerely,

UIC United Faculty

***

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!

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28 Feb UICUF Officer Nominations, Elections, Member Meeting

  • Union Elections by Mail: Union Officer elections will be held in April via mail/drop-off ballot. Ballots will be mailed to members at their last known address by 3/31, and must be received via mail or dropped off in an on-campus drop box by 5pm, 4/20. If you have not yet received a notice of election at your home address, please email us to confirm a valid address ASAP.


  • Officer Eligibility: Any member in good standing who joined the union prior to 10/20/21 (six months before election day), is eligible to run for office.


  • Nominations and Endorsements: Candidates are required to collect and submit endorsements by 3/21 to put their name on the ballot. Alternatively, a member may be nominated from the floor during our upcoming member meeting on 3/16. See below for a list of elected positions and details on obtaining/submitting endorsements.


  • UICUF Member Meeting 3/16: Our Spring Member Meeting is coming up Wed 3/16, 3-4:30pm (Calendar Link Here). This meeting will be held via zoom and in person at Student Center East. We will discuss our contract negotiations, union elections, and COVID organizing. If you plan on attending in person, RSVP so we can get a headcount. 


Dear Colleagues,

Terms for our current UICUF Executive Board officers and college representatives expire at the end of the current academic year. Pursuant to our Constitution, nominations are now being accepted for the positions listed below.  Descriptions of the duties of these offices can be found on the nomination forms and under Article VI of our Constitution.

Elected Executive Board Positions

  • President 
  • Executive Vice President
  • Treasurer
  • Vice President Chief Steward
  • Vice President for Tenure System Faculty
  • Vice President for Non-Tenure System Faculty

At-large positions require 20 endorsements from union members to run. VP’s for the Tenure and Non-Tenure systems require 10 endorsements from union members in the relevant system to run.

Representative Assembly Seats

SEATS COLLEGE/GROUPING
1 Applied Health Sciences
2 Architecture, Design & the Arts
1 Business Administration
1 Education
2 Engineering
4 LAS / Humanities & Interdisciplinary Programs
2 LAS / Natural Sciences
2 LAS / Social & Behavioral Sciences
1 Library
2 Nursing
2 Public Health
1 Tutorium in Intensive English
1 Social Work
1 Urban Planning & Public Affairs

Nominees for Representative Assembly need 5 endorsements from union members in the relevant college to run.

A UICUF member must have joined the union prior to October 20, 2021–six months prior to the election date of April 20, 2022–to be eligible to run for office. 

Nomination/Endorsement Forms

Nominations (including self-nominations) and endorsements may be submitted electronically via the following links, and must be submitted by 5pm, Monday, March 21, 2022. Alternatively, nominations for office may be made from the floor of the March 16 Member Meeting

NOMINATION FORMS (Including Self-Nomination)

Executive Board Nominations

Representative Assembly Nominations

ENDORSEMENT FORMS

Executive Board Endorsements

Representative Assembly Endorsements

Balloting by Mail

The election will be conducted via mail-in ballot which can be returned by mail or via on-campus dropbox. Ballots will be mailed to UICUF members no later than March 31, 2022, and completed ballots must arrive by mail or be dropped in campus ballot boxes no later than 5pm, Wednesday, April 20, 2022. For more details about the election, please contact the elections committee or visit the UICUF website.

Sincerely,

UICUF Elections Committee

Sarah Abboud (Nursing)

Elise Archias (Architecture, Design, and the Arts)

Stephen Engelmann (Liberal Arts and Sciences)

Kathy Preissner (Applied Health Sciences)

Dale Reed (Engineering), Chair

Karen Ros (Liberal Arts and Sciences)

***

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!

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21 Feb UICUF Member Meeting and Grad Worker Petition

  • UICUF Member Meeting 3/16: Save the date for our upcoming member meeting, 3-4:30pm, on Wed, 3/16 (Calendar Link Here). This meeting will be held via zoom and in person on campus. We will discuss our contract negotiations, union elections, and COVID organizing. Members will receive further details via email soon. 


  • Grad Workers’ Petition for a Fair Contract: The UIC Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) is petitioning the administration to agree to a fair contract. Please support them by signing the petition now


  • Notice-of-Elections Mailer: UICUF will hold union elections at the end of the semester. Details and key dates are being sent via US mail to all members. We encourage our members to consider running for officer, or finding other ways to get involved. You can see our current elected officers here

Dear Colleagues,

Each semester, we hold at least one full membership meeting to communicate union initiatives to the general membership and to hear from you about your experiences and needs in the workplace. Our Spring Membership Meeting will be held on Wednesday, 3/16, from 3-4:30pm, both via zoom and in person. You can use this link to save-the-date in your calendar

We strongly encourage all members to join us for this important meeting, where we will discuss upcoming contract negotiations, union elections, and the ongoing need to organize during and around evolving COVID conditions. We will also be introducing our bargaining team, including our two Co-Chairs, Aaron Krall and Xochitl Bada-Garcia. 

Members will receive location info/safe meeting guidelines, and a zoom link for those who prefer to attend remotely, closer to the date. We chose a hybrid format for this meeting in recognition of evolving member preferences, with options for those who wish to meet face-to-face and those who prefer zoom for safety and/or convenience. We are committed to ensuring a safe in-person meeting environment, alongside a coordinated and engaging remote experience, so please choose the mode of participation that is most appropriate for your needs. If you plan to attend in person, your RSVP is appreciated so we can plan an appropriate space for safe distancing. 

Non-members may join any time between now and then, including at the door, if they wish to participate.  We highly encourage you to bring a colleague!

Supporting Grad Worker Bargaining

UIC GEO is currently bargaining with the administration to win a fair contract, and have recently entered into mediation. This step signals that both sides feel there are still wide gaps between them on various contract proposals. The GEO is asking for your support in the form of a petition demanding that the administration settle a fair contract in a timely manner. We strongly encourage you to take a moment and do this, as solidarity between our unions makes all of our efforts more effective, and because many issues GEO is fighting on today may come up in our own negotiations in the coming months. 

Union Elections

Union members will have the opportunity to run for and vote on elected offices in late April. Details of that process, such as how to run/nominate someone for office, and key dates, are being put in the mail as we speak, so watch your mailbox for those important updates. If you have any questions about the elections process, or want to be considered for an elected position and are unsure where to start, you can email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. A staffer or member of the Elections Committee will get back to you as soon as possible. 

Solidarity

UIC United Faculty

***

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!

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10 Feb Contribute to UICUF COPE + Support Grads’ Contract Rally

  • Our Committee on Political Education (COPE): 2022 is an election year and in case you were not aware, our local union has a political action committee that shines a light on higher education issues and collects funds to contribute to political candidates that support higher ed and organized labor.

  • Committee Membership: COPE is a voluntary fund that our members can join for as little as $1 a month via our website. All contributors are able to attend board meetings and nominate candidates for endorsement. (Note: You must be a UICUF member and US citizen or legal resident to contribute.)

  • GEO Rally in the Quad: The Graduate Employee Organization (GEO) has reached an agreement with the administration to seek mediation in bargaining their next contract. Come hear what is going on with their bargaining and show your support by joining their rally in the UIC Quad Wednesday, February 16, 12:30-1:30.

  • Listening Sessions: We are continuing our listening sessions in a variety of units throughout UIC, bringing Bargaining Team members in to hear your questions and top issues for bargaining. Watch your inbox for the invite!

Dear Colleagues,

The Committee on Political Education (COPE), UICUF’s member-run political action committee , is seeking to expand its membership and increase political advocacy on behalf of our union members. To become a contributor, click here to sign up. Contributors can give as little as $1/month through monthly payroll deductions. Contributors must be a member of UIC United Faculty and a US citizen or permanent resident to join.

As we approach the 2022 elections with newly drawn legislative district maps, it is more important than ever to have a voice in the political process. In the 2020 election cycle, the COPE proudly endorsed three successful state legislators: Lakesia Collins (D – H009), Theresa Mah (D – H002), and Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz (D – H017). With your contribution, we hope to support these legislators and additional candidates who are committed to improving the working conditions of Illinois educators.

The COPE is also dedicated to educating UICUF members on political issues around public higher education, endorsing pro-education and pro-labor candidates, and supporting legislation that benefit all UIC faculty. All contributors are welcome to attend board meetings and nominate candidates for endorsement consideration.

And your contributions go farther now! The COPE is working with IFT to receive additional funds should we continue to grow our contributor base. This means more funds for candidate support, political education events, and general operations. For more information about the COPE click here or email COPE chair Jeffrey Kessler.

Solidarity

UIC United Faculty

***

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!

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04 Feb Contact Tracing

  • Contact Tracing: We’ve received a number of questions about contact tracing over the weeks since returning to campus, and now have plans to meet with relevant administrators to get those questions answered.


  • FAQ & Further Inquiries: You can find general guidelines on contact tracing from UIC here. However, we know that some have had questions or concerns, and want to make sure the CT system is working for faculty and students. We encourage you to contact us with questions or concerns at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com so we can seek resolutions.


Dear Colleagues,

We’ve heard from several of you on questions about ongoing COVID safety and contact tracing, and have been seeking answers. You can find UIC’s official policies and procedures for contact tracing here, with links to other COVID safety resources at the bottom of the page. Of course, we are aware that the stated policies may not cover all eventualities, and that members have had questions and concerns dealing with the CT system. We are currently planning to meet with the administration’s CT team representatives in the near future to get those questions and concerns addressed. 

As ever, if you have questions or issues about contact tracing, any other aspect of the back-to-campus transition, or a separate concern about working conditions, please reach out to us ASAP at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com

Solidarity

UIC United Faculty

***

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!

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28 Jan UICUF Leadership & Sick Leave Legislation

  • Leadership Transition: Last week, UICUF suffered the painful loss of our President, Janet Smith. Per our constitution, Executive Vice President Aaron Krall is stepping into the union’s top role, pending new leadership elections in April. 
  • Union Elections this Spring: In addition to the anticipated start of contract bargaining, we will be holding union leadership elections this April. All members will receive a mailing in the next couple of weeks indicating key dates for nominations and voting. 
  • Sick Leave Legislation: With support from our state affiliate, IFT, legislation covering leave time for public employees taking off for COVID related illness or care of dependents in isolation/quarantine, is now expected to become law. IFT’s FAQ on the bill can be found here.
  • Questions About Back-to-Campus: We continue to encourage our members to contact us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com if you have any questions about returning to campus, including those regarding flexible work accommodations, contact tracing, and th like.  

Dear Colleagues,

As we begin the process of moving forward after the loss of our President, Janet Smith, we want to thank everyone who joined us for the memorial service last Sunday, and who sent us photos or shared stories from her life. You can watch a recording of the memorial service here. We are of course continuing the work of representing UIC faculty with a view toward our upcoming contract negotiations and helping our members navigate the immediate questions and concerns of returning to campus. 

Leadership Transition

Per our constitution, our Executive Vice President, Aaron Krall, will be taking on the duties of the President, pending new leadership elections this April. Aaron is a Senior Lecturer of English, and also a Co-Chair of our Bargaining Committee. He has been a union member since UICUF’s formation and is one of our veteran contract negotiators. 

We will be holding a full round of union leadership elections this April, including all Executive Board Position and College Representatives. You can find a list of current Executive Board members and College on our website. All union members will receive a notice of elections, nomination process, and key dates by mail within the next few weeks. We will reach out if we do not appear to have an accurate address on file. 

Sick Leave Legislation

Our state affiliate, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, has advised us that the legislature is expected to pass a bill covering leave for public employees either sick with COVID or caring for a dependent in quarantine/isolation. An FAQ on the bill can be found here, via our website. In brief, all public education employees in Illinois will be eligible for leave time for the stated purposes without having to use personal or sick leave days.  Those who have used leave days to cover these situations in the 2021-2022 academic year will have those days returned to them. 

UIC has offered some version of paid leave for COVID illness throughout the pandemic.  This bill, however, may cover some gaps, especially if you were forced to take leave to care for a dependent in isolation or quarantine. We will announce when the bill has been signed into law. As always, please send any questions about this to us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com

Back-to-Campus Questions

For the many faculty who returned to full in-person teaching this week, we hope the transition is going smoothly.  We are, though, aware that there may still be lingering questions or concerns. We have heard from members regarding flexible work accommodations, contact tracing, and temporary shifts to remote if COVID cases make classes unmanageable.  Please remember that all units should, by now, have written policies on the latter issue. Per instructions from the Provost’s office, department heads should have worked out these policies with their elected advisory bodies, based on the principle that faculty members themselves are most qualified to make decisions about how to best conduct their classes. We encourage all members to continue contacting us if you have new or ongoing questions about how to navigate this challenging moment. 

Solidarity

UIC United Faculty

***

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!

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20 Jan Town Hall & Campus Return Details

  • 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. 

Dear Colleagues,

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.

Solidarity

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!

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19 Jan UICUF President Janet Smith Has Passed Away

Dear Colleagues

It is with great sadness that we must pass along the news of the death of one our most steadfast, determined, and beloved comrades.

After an inspiringly cheerful and determined fight against cancer, our Union President and dear colleague, Janet Smith, died last evening.  She was able to be at home, with her family.

As many of you know, Janet put her heart and soul into the union—as with so much else that she did to make the university, Chicago, and the world a better place.  And we were on her mind at the very end.  Yesterday evening, just hours before her passing, her husband Jim sent along a message that said that “before it’s too late, she wants the whole union to know how much she loves you all, how much she’s been blown away by working with you.”

We have already received so many words of shock and grief, as well as fond and warm words of remembrance of her amazing passion, creativity, and solidarity.  One member wished us to emphasize how much Janet “encouraged everyone and gave them the courage to share their own voices.” This is very much the essence of Janet’s work building and leading our union.

Janet’s passing leaves a huge hole that, even in these pandemic times, we simply must find ways to memorialize.  We will let you know as soon as we can of any and all services and commemorations we become aware of, including those that the union will surely be convening in the coming weeks and months.  We will also let you know of any charitable funds to contribute to in her memory.

In the meantime: we will mourn, and we will organize.  And we will long remember our UICUF foundation, and closest of friends.

Solidarity forever,

UICUF Executive Board and Staff

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12 Jan Provost Consultation on COVID Measures

  • Ongoing Consultation: We met again on Tuesday with Prov. Reyes and an extensive administration team including health experts, and plan to have a follow-up meeting early next week on ongoing COVID measures and remote work. 

  • Return-to-Campus Decisions: Although a final decision and announcement is anticipated next Tuesday, admin expects to return to in-person classes on the 24th. The current 2-week hiatus will serve as a cooldown and observation period after the holiday spread of the Omicron variant.  

  • On-Campus Testing: Capacity is being expanded significantly, and admin highly encourages people to use on-campus testing given the issues many are experiencing seeking off-campus tests. All workers and students should get tested within 72 hours after returning to campus or provide a negative test to UIC Health. Anyone with a documented positive PCR test is exempted from testing for 90 days.
  • Process for Seeking Remote Work Accommodations: As a reminder, current UIC policy allows and encourages unit heads to offer flexible work arrangements to faculty where possible. Accommodations may also be sought through the Office of Access and Equity. Prov. Reyes has committed to reminding unit heads and administrators of this policy. If you have any problems with seeking an accommodation, please let us know immediately.


Dear Colleagues,

As we mentioned in our prior communications on remote work and COVID safety decisions, we met with Provost Reyes on Tuesday, sharing many concerns and questions brought to us by our members over the last week. We covered a variety of topics, including decision-making deadlines, consultation arrangements and transparency, safety measures, and ongoing issues with members seeking remote/flexible work accommodations. We are encouraged both by the powerful eloquence of what we’ve heard from our members, and by the new provost’s willingness to listen to those collective concerns.

Decision-Making Timelines and Thresholds

We pressed the administration to clarify the guidelines it is using to make a back-to-campus decision this semester–and to make that decision as soon as possible. Although the current expectation seems to be that in-person classes will resume on the 24th, the final decision will be made and communicated to the UIC community by the Chancellor, likely by next Tuesday, 1/18. This is a compromise to balance the needs of faculty and students to plan for classes the following week, while giving time for health experts to see how dangers relating to the surge in COVID cases is evolving. 

There is no single metric the administration is considering as a red-line for keeping classes remote, but we did speak extensively with the primary university health expert advising the administration on infectious disease prevention. They are particularly watching hospital capacity, and strongly emphasizing appropriate masking, meaning at least a 2-ply mask that fits well around your face (see below regarding mask enforcement and other mitigation measures). 

Consultation and Transparency 

We expect to meet again with the administration before they make a final decision on returning to campus.  Moreover, the Provost was receptive to our request to hold a town hall meeting next week to explain that decision and any safety measures being put in place. This of course means that we will continue using your input to formulate the union’s positions for that meeting. We strongly encourage you to send thoughts, questions, or concerns to us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. Your input is crucial.

COVID Safety Measures

Aside from the decision to hold classes remotely the first two weeks of the semester, we asked about other safety measures.  Given the challenges facing almost anyone seeking to get tested for COVID, we especially advised that on-campus testing capacity be ramped up dramatically for the foreseeable future. In response, the university will increase testing capacity from 3,000 tests-per-day to 8,000 tests-per-day, and will extend weekday hours for testing to 8am-6pm and possibly later if needed in the first days back. Testing will be available in Student Center East, Student Center West, and at a new location in the Forum. The administration also clarified that students and faculty should get tested within 72 hours after returning to campus, with the understanding that off-campus testing access is uneven at best. If you are able to get tested off-campus, you can still upload your test results to the U of I Health system. As a reminder, you must now also upload your booster information in the same system.

Also, additional work has been done on ventilation to test appropriate airflow and to install HEPA filters where natural airflow was found to be inadequate. You can review the ventilation assessments here.  

In regards to masking, the administration has advised that if you see problematic behavior in the classroom, you can report it directly to the Office of the Dean of Students to report the problem. The administration also says that it may revise its mask policy depending on potential changes in CDC recommendations relating to the effectiveness of specific kinds of masks with Omicron. The current emphasis is on appropriate masking with at least 2-ply masks that fit well over your face. Gators, bandanas, and single-ply cloth masks are believed to be insufficient barriers to COVID transmission at this time. 

Accommodations for Flexible/Remote Work

As an important reminder, university policy gives unit heads the power to offer flexible/remote work accommodations where possible, but also provides for an alternate process through the Office of Access and Equity. The administration agreed to remind Deans and Department Heads of this policy, and clarify responsibilities therein. They also advised us that due to a sudden departure of an OAE staffer, there has been a backlog of accommodation requests. They are aware of the problem and are working to cover outstanding requests ASAP. If you are having problems seeking an accommodation, of course, please let us know at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com.

The provost also indicated that his office would soon be developing guidelines relating to faculty choice to continue with on-line learning for their courses depending on various circumstances—particularly a large number of student absences.  We expect to be able to consult on such a policy before its announcement. 

Solidarity, and stay safe,

UIC United Faculty

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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 SAFER place to work and learn!

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