Reopening update

This message contains important information for those with underlying health conditions, or family members with underlying health conditions; please read through to the end.

A working group of UA Executive Council members have been meeting weekly with Executive Vice Provost Janet Woodruff-Borden and Chief Human Resource Officer Mark Schmelz to work through ongoing workplace and safety issues as the majority of faculty, staff, and students return to in-person business. As you may recall, we supported the CSWS petition to allow caregivers of children 12 and under, who cannot yet receive the vaccine, the option to teach remotely. Central administration will not honor this petition, as they are, instead, following public health guidelines for school-aged children who are returning back to in-person school.

Given the Lane County Public Health guidelines for employers to “encourage remote tele-work for employees for whom this is possible and ensure that workplaces can facilitate distancing where possible” (August, 21, 2021; p. 2 LANE COUNTY ISSUES NEW EMERGENCY COVID-19 GUIDANCE), we returned to request the option for remote teaching for two very specific populations in our community: people with children under 5, and people with underlying health conditions who would be susceptible to serious illness should they contract Covid-19.

In our meeting with them, administration informed us that they would not be allowing any categorical changes in teaching modalities, and that the process for gaining permission to teach remotely is purely an individual process requiring the presence of compromised health conditions for either the instructor or someone in the instructor’s household. Not being able to receive the vaccine due to the age of a household member (newborns, infants, preschoolers, etc…) is not enough to warrant remote teaching. However, should one’s pediatrician or doctor state that the household member would be at risk of serious illness should they contract the disease, then that opens up a couple different processes to request accommodation and remote teaching.

Here are the two different processes one needs to go through if you or someone in your household has underlying health conditions.

You must start with the ADA process. We understand that the form seems prohibitive because it states that you must have an ADA recognized disability to teach remotely. Janet and Mark assured us that faculty who have been denied but have underlying health conditions that could lead to serious illness (stated by their physician), have been provided an “offramp” from ADA to work with you individually to make a plan that works for your safety. If you receive an ADA-denial, don’t stop there. If your physician indicated that you do have underlying health conditions that could lead to serious illness from Covid-19, you are supposed to be referred to Janet’s office for an individualized consideration. If you receive no response, please reach out to us to let us know. We can help facilitate this process.

A Vulnerable Family Member:
You need to start with your department head or dean by sharing a letter from your family member’s physician saying they have an underlying health condition that puts them at risk for serious illness should they contract Covid-19. The letter does not need to indicate the specific health condition; a diagnosis or any such information shall and will remain private. A letter from the physician indicating compromised health is all that is necessary. The dean and department head should then work with you to set up working conditions that keep you and your family safe.

We are disappointed that blanket accommodations will not be allowed for people facing underlying health conditions or caretakers of unvaccinated children. The process laid out above may feel cumbersome and in some cases intimidating, especially this close to the start of the term. Please let us know if you are in a situation where you are not comfortable approaching your department head or dean to pursue option 2 for vulnerable family members; we can provide support through this process.

A quick rundown on your classroom

Mask enforcements:
Should a student in your class say that they have a qualified exemption to wear a mask in the classroom, they need to provide their letter of proof. Should they not have their letter on them, then they can be asked to leave. Should they refuse to leave, the instructor may cancel class.

Filtration and ventilation:
Assurances have been made that filtration and ventilation systems have been improved. Rooms without proper ventilation and filtration are provided with Hepa air filters. We are expecting detailed classroom information to be available soon so teachers can know the air systems of their particular classrooms.

The administration continues to believe that our classrooms are the “safest place to be” in Eugene. They are basing this on vaccination rates, mandatory mask requirements, and the air filtration and ventilation improvements.

We know many of you are excited to be back to in-person. We will continue to advocate for the most vulnerable members of our community who are concerned about returning to campus. We are also ready and waiting to help you with your individualized advocacy if you run into any roadblocks. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

In Solidarity,

Avinnash Tiwari, President
Scott Pratt, Executive VP
Eleanor Wakefield, Secretary
Bill Harbaugh, Treasurer
David Luebke, VP for TT
Christina Karns, VP for NTT Research
Michael Urbancic, VP for NTT Instruction
Lynn Fujiwara, VP for Diversity and Equity
Nathan Whalen, Grievance and Contract Administration
Edward Davis, Organizing, Membership, and Communications
David Cecil, Executive Director
Heather Wolford, Organizer
Kristy Hammond, Admin

Further Resources:

Provost’s Office Covid 19 Guidance:

ADA via HR:

Covid 19 Containment Plan for Classes:

Academic Council Guidance and Expectations page:

Fall 2021 Message to Faculty and GEs:

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