We have heard from many faculty over the last few weeks who are incredulous at the announcement that the administration wants to open campus in the fall and have in-person teaching. Many, of course, fear for their safety. Some wonder how they will take care of their children if daycares or schools are still closed. Some think the announcement is obviously a ploy, and no one should believe that we’ll actually be on campus. Others see the necessity of opening because we need the money, but also think it can’t possibly work. No one contacting us, though, seems to believe we can certainly reopen the campus safely or that it is a good idea to commit to live classes at this time.
On the other hand, administrators–in Town Halls, Senate meetings, and private conversations–keep reporting that the faculty they talk to are very excited to reopen campus and see students again.
This makes sense, of course. The faculty who write to the union leadership to protest a decision are likely a distinct group from those who write or call the administration to congratulate them. But which is it? Is “the faculty” trepidatious and fearful about a reopen, or is it excited about the prospect? There is one very easy way to decide: allow faculty the option of working on-campus or remote in the fall.
As the administrators keep emphasizing, we have four and a half months to plan for the reopening. This gives the administration plenty of time to consult with the various campus constituent groups and formulate plans to keep our campus healthy and safe, then educate faculty and others about those plans. Like administrators, faculty are very smart people. If the plans are solid, faculty certainly will be happy to work on campus and in-person. Few are pining to continue to work from the guest room. If, however, the plans for reopening are not assuring, faculty should have every right to refuse to work in an unsafe environment.
As we go forward with our bargaining with the administration, the ability to choose whether to be on campus or remotely will be a guiding principle. We also want to help any faculty member who believes they have been retaliated against for requesting to work remotely. We will keep you updated as we move forward in advocating for you and your safety on this issue.