Since the start of this pandemic, our members have been reporting shortcomings in the university’s pandemic response and demanding a voice in the policy-setting process. Our demands have largely gone unanswered. We are of course relieved that Rutgers has decided to require boosters and to postpone in-person classes for two weeks considering that, as of January 1st, the positivity rates at New Brunswick and Newark were 39 and 33 percent, respectively. But we are far from certain that they will do the right thing come January 31st.
The university claims to be “implementing appropriate contingency plans that rely on today’s best available information and expertise,” but noticeably missing from that equation is the expertise and experience of those of us who will actually be in the classroom: teachers, and our students, too.
Why are we not represented at the table when the decisions about our working conditions are made?
Why is Rutgers not taking advantage of the expertise and insights of our members, who work in other colleges and universities, and are seeing many best practices that perhaps should be implemented here?
These other institutions are:
- Paying subsidies or bonuses for online teaching and pandemic-related extra workload (1) up to $3500 per instructor (2).
- Requiring that everyone who is enrolled and/or coming to campus take part in gateway testing (3).
- Conducting random on-campus testing to assess community spread (4).
- Requiring mandatory, frequent (two times per week), on-campus testing for unvaccinated students, faculty and staff, and periodic on-campus testing for all vaccinated students (5).
- Requiring mandatory testing for students and faculty returning after illness (6).
- Adjusting class sizes and scheduling to allow effective learning and social distancing, a minimum of six feet (7).
Other faculty unions are demanding their schools:
- Require and provide N95/KN95 masks. Surgical masks are ineffective against omicron infection (8).
- Accept faculty requests to teach online due to health and safety concerns (9).
- Publish ventilation reports. Transparency about ventilation testing for each room, including offices (10).
As we stated last summer:
We will defend the right of all employees to take whatever individual or collective steps are necessary to maintain safety, including in instances of poor ventilation, student refusal to wear masks in class, or a spike in COVID cases on campus.
(1) Community College of Philadelphia
(2) California State University
(7) Community College of Philadelphia
(8) Faculty and Staff Federation of CCP
(9) PSC, CUNY
(10) Faculty and Staff Federation of CCP