Unionized Faculty at Illinois’ Higher Ed Institutes Demand Remote-Learning

Unionized Faculty
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Unionized faculty and staff are demanding for institutions to begin the fall utilizing remote learning with concerns mounting over in-person learning on college and university campuses across the state.

Which Unionized Faculty Is Making the Demand?

Organized by the Illinois Federation of Teachers, members of the University Professionals of Illinois (UPI), Cook County College Teachers Union (CCCTU), UIC United Faculty (UICUF), Columbia College Chicago Faculty Union (CFAC), and Illinois Education Association (IEA) – Higher Education Council all participated in the joint statement.

“The latest science should dictate and guide the reopening of our colleges and universities to protect the safety of our students, faculty, employees, their families, and communities,” said UPI President John Miller. “With so much still unknown about COVID-19, this is not the time to rush the reopening of our institutions.”

Union leaders are demanding institutions complete risk assessments, secure a sufficient amount of PPE, and consult faculty and staff on their comfort level before returning to in-person learning.

Faculty Recommendations for Re-Opening Campuses

In addition, unions and their partners also released a data-based best practices document developed by union-member experts which details how campuses can eventually reopen safely.

Among the recommendations:

  • Require social distancing, PPE, and hand hygiene
  • Instructor/employee autonomy in deciding whether to hold classes or complete work remotely or in-person
  • Performance of a risk assessment in the event a course or other work responsibility is conducted in-person
  • Reasonable accommodations must be made for employees who are at high-risk and asked to teach or work in-person
  • Recognize special precautions are required for hands-on instruction in some courses (eg., music, dance, labs, auto technology, etc)
  • Development of special plans which must be put in place for students, faculty, and staff in vulnerable populations

“We know the virus spreads readily in closed spaces like classrooms,” said Billy Hung, associate professor at Eastern Illinois University. “The health and safety of our students must come first.”

Other Issues

While the union leaders remain firm on their opposition to in-person learning, there is an understanding that some aspects of the curriculum must be taught in-person. In those instances, they are asking for the Illinois Board of Higher Education to form more precise and effective guidelines to keep faculty, staff and students safe.

When asked if faculty and staff are prepared to walk off campuses if their demand isn’t heard, Miller remained hopefully institutions would engage in meaningful dialogue. Striking is not currently on the table for union leaders.

A specific timeline was not provided by leaders this morning, but they did state their desire for a decision to made soon to best allow all parties involved time to adjust and prepare.

Kevin Jackman reports for Naperville News 17