Your Union is Here

Dear colleagues,

Obviously, events on campus are evolving rapidly and it can be hard for anyone to keep up. United Academics leadership and staff have been involved in several conversations with administration this week, both keeping up with administration’s planning and making sure faculty interests are being considered.

While we will be closing our office for the next two weeks (Finals Week and Spring Break), our staff and leadership will be available via email at [email protected]. You can reach out to us to get information on the expectations of faculty during the next few weeks, details about sick leave, and answers to any questions you may have. If we don’t know the answers right away, we will use our contacts with administration to get you the information you need.

There has already been a lot of confusion about the difference between “remote teaching” and “online teaching.” In our conversations with administrators and people on the Academic Continuity Committee, we have understood that in this emergency situation, faculty are not expected to deliver a normal and complete online course. The challenge all of our instructional faculty face is how to get some content online that will enable the students to engage with the materials in a way that sets them up for success when we return to campus. If you are adept at Canvas and Zoom and want to design complete interactive modules – go for it! If you are not so adept and think that posting a Powerpoint of the notes you would have delivered is more your speed, that’s fine, too!

Faculty have expressed concern that negative student experience surveys could possibly affect merit, promotion, or renewal decisions. We have raised this concern with administration – as have the department heads and deans – and everyone understands the need to take the sudden transition into account when weighing this term’s evaluations. There are no concrete agreements yet and focus has obviously been on the immediate problems, but nothing we are hearing indicates anything other than an acknowledgement that this term’s evaluations be considered in light of the totality of the circumstances. We will continue to work with administration on this issue.

Finally, for our instructional faculty, please remember that our graduate employee colleagues are our fellow workers. As you consider how to incorporate their work into your remote teaching, keep in mind that they may become ill or have sudden child care obligations due to illness or school closures. They also have a limit on their hours per week. In short, while they may be an excellent resource for helping you think of how to make remote teaching work, be sure to not ask them to do more than you normally would.

For non-instructional faculty, we believe that all faculty who can work from home should be allowed to work from home.  We are also letting the administration know that should faculty be quarantined, or their campus work location shut down, that they not be charged sick time. We are also pushing to make sure that no faculty member suffers a cut in pay for taking necessary precautions or falling ill. We will keep you informed about these conversations.

There are, obviously, many questions being raised on campus, and the situation is very fluid. We plan to communicate frequently with information that we hope will be helpful. Again, feel free to ask questions or raise issues at [email protected]

In solidarity,

Chris Sinclair
President United Academics