By: Sumaiya Nasir | September 12, 2021
The United University Professions Union will be sending a letter signed by 300 employees to President Rodriguez and Provost Kim expressing their disappointment with the university’s approach to ensuring faculty and student’s health and safety on campus.
The letter was sent out to faculty last week and UUP met on Wednesday to discuss the issues stated in the letter.
“As we enter the fourth week of the new academic year we, as University at Albany employees, write to express our concerns about health and safety on campus,” the letter states.
Teaching faculty have been requesting flexibility from campus administration since the beginning of the semester.
“I have already had a handful of students who have had to miss class because they needed to be quarantined,” Aaron Major, president of UUP’s Albany chapter said. “Others are still working through the impacts of COVID on their families and finances. In talking to my colleagues I know that my classroom is not unique.”
The university responded with a telecommuting program that gives faculty the opportunity to resume a portion of activities that do not require in-person interactions with students and faculty.
“The university’s foremost priority is and has always been the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff,” said Todd Foreman, UAlbany’s vice president for finance and administration.
According to Foreman, the university has been in frequent contact with UUP since the beginning of the pandemic. “Given the continuously evolving public health situation, it’s entirely understandable that there are questions and concerns as our campus policies adapt to changing conditions.”
“UAlbany is committed to meeting or exceeding federal, state and local public health guidance – as it has since the dawn of the pandemic – to deliver the safe, in-person education that our students want,” said Foreman.
The ASP attempted to reach out to President Rodríguez to request a comment regarding the faculty’s concerns. He was not available for comment at this time.
“We're happy to see the state extend these provisions for employees who continue to be affected by disruptions to childcare availability due to the pandemic,” said Major. “Of course, it would be better if these changes were announced earlier so that people could plan ahead, but it is still progress.”
Teaching faculty, much like the university, want a return to normalcy. “The point of the letter is not to advocate for a switch to remote instruction,” Major clarified.
The letter requests that senior administration extend the same courtesy and flexibility to employees that are given to students, stating that both employees and the administration share the same goal of returning to campus safely.
The letter also requests that the university should minimize the use of large, indoor meetings.
“We have faculty who have been ordered, under the threat of punishment, which can include immediately suspending them from the university without pay, to attend large, in-person meetings without providing a remote attendance option,” said Major. “We have those tools, we know they can work, why not use them?”
Major also said that the provost has threatened faculty with punishment if they change course modality.
UUP also asks that employees with medical conditions that are at more of a risk be considered.
The letter sent out by UUP ends with, “Every member of the campus community is owed a basic level of respect and dignity from colleagues, from students, and from senior administration.”
“I do hope that the petition will help make the University administration aware that faculty and staff, too, need the same courtesy and flexibility that we are rightly expected to offer our students,” said journalism professor Nancy Roberts.
The letter will be sent to campus administration on Monday.