Plans to Reopen Campus and Remote Work Requests

The administration held a town hall today to discuss their plans for reopening campus in fall. While many faculty are excited to resume in-person teaching and research, it is imperative that the safety of our students, colleagues, and community is the primary factor driving decisions and planning around when and how to reopen campus. Our colleague Melissa Graboyes (History and CHC) wrote a thoughtful opinion piece for the Oregonian yesterday, which many faculty have pointed to as representative of concerns they have about this process.

On Monday, the university administration sent all faculty and GEs an email from Human Relations Director Mark Schmelz, requesting that they identify to the administration whether they met the CDC risk criteria for COVID and if they would like to work 100% remotely in fall. Faculty and GEs who do not meet the risk criteria were given the option of requesting remote work in the fall, pending approval by the administration. Everyone was given until Friday, May 8 to provide this information and declare their preferences to the administration. That deadline has since been extended to Thursday, May 14.

We have heard from many faculty who fear that notifying administration of their risk status or their preference for fall could be used against them in a variety of ways. For example, we have many faculty with promotion or tenure files sitting on the desk of the Provost; how will a request to teach remotely factor into those decisions? In the midst of this current crisis we have Career faculty who will be receiving reduced-FTE renewal decisions; will the restoration of FTE be dependent on the willingness to put their health at risk in four months?

Our collective bargaining agreement states that the administration “shall provide bargaining unit faculty members with facilities and services appropriate to the performance of their job duties and conducive to performing their duties in a professional atmosphere,” and “[b]argaining unit faculty members shall not be required to work under conditions that violate applicable safety or health laws or regulations.” The administration must meet these two standards before they can require faculty return for in-person teaching.

We are working with our lawyers and in collaboration with other campus unions to clarify faculty’s (and other workers’) rights and to ensure that an open campus will be a safe work environment. We will be back in touch early next week with additional information and guidance.