FA News August 3, 2020: Call for Remote Learning

The FA, in conjunction with GAU, has just issued the attached press release.

Anyone who’s followed our commentary on the issues raised by COVID will know this has been a long time coming. I think it’s fair to say the bulk of our executive committee has felt this way for many weeks if not months. But we know that there has been a diversity of views among our members (and among faculty more widely). We kept consulting, and kept our eyes on the course of the COVID pandemic and SIUC’s plans for lessening the risk that pandemic poses to our community. With just two weeks left before the semester begins, the time has come to speak out.

 

Illinois in general and Jackson County in particular are not moving in the right direction as far as COVID goes. And while SIUC is adopting some prudent safety measures, our inability to implement a comprehensive testing strategy is troubling, given that models for safe reopening require rigorous testing. We therefore determined to join the many other higher education unions in Illinois already calling for remote instruction, in hopes that SIUC will join the increasing number of universities in this country that are moving in that direction.

 

As our press release indicates, we are already engaged in impact bargaining with the administration concerning the fall semester. These negotiations have been premised on the likelihood that the administration will move forward with significant numbers of F2F cases outside the narrow range of courses where F2F instruction is required, although the agreement we reach will be of value even if SIUC ends up limiting F2F instruction now or later during the semester.

 

Within those parameters, the news so far is largely good. The administration has been bargaining in good faith, and they appear genuinely committed to meeting instructors’ preferences for the mode of instruction in most cases. Initial plans to put all or most sections of ENG and CMST 101 have been softened after most instructors of those courses (mainly GA’s) indicated that they wished to teach online. Among the issues we are continuing to work on are transparency in reporting the numbers of cases on campus overall, and keeping instructors informed about COVID cases amongst their own students. There are real privacy issues here, but public health concerns (and US and Illinois law) allow for reasonable exceptions in the case of a communicable disease like COVID-19.

 

If you have concerns about your own situation, including concerns about the safety of you and your students or your workload, please let us know, and we will do all we can to help.

 

In solidarity,

 

Dave Johnson
President, SIUC-FA

About Dave Johnson
I'm an Associate Professor in Classics and currently (fall 2016) President of the SIUC Faculty Association.

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