Pres Schill and Prov Phillips blow off faculty covid concerns

The union’s response today to the administration’s dismissal yesterday of the union’s request that JH get its shit together about this omicron thing, any fucking time now:


Below, you’ll find the [Union] Executive Council’s message to upper administration after reviewing their response.

If you are having difficulty with remote accommodations for your work, if you feel you are working in an unsafe environment, or, if your workload has significantly increased this term, please contact us so we can advocate for you as best as we can.

Please remember Bargaining picks up again this coming week. Zoom in from wherever you’re at. The B-Team did their work. Now we do our work and show up.

In Solidarity,

The EC of UAUO

Dear President Schill, Provost Phillips, Executive Vice Provost Woodruff-Borden, and Vice President Schmelz,

We received your response to our membership generated action items presented and discussed with you on Tuesday, January 18. We are disappointed that you continue to discount and devalue important faculty input and suggestions to better their working conditions and maintain excellence in teaching and research during this global pandemic.

A presidential advisory group on COVID academic continuity and scholarly impact involving representatives from units across campus is not comparable to what we proposed, a joint UA and management group responsible for Covid-related decision making affecting our bargaining unit members. If you want input on decision making from a variety of campus groups, you might similarly work with them to make decisions affecting their unique interests, such as teaching modality with GTFF. But one group to cover all you’ve suggested cannot function efficiently. For example, we cannot see how a campus-wide group of stakeholders is best suited to discuss scholarly impact for faculty under the pandemic.

You do not acknowledge or address our action item to allow faculty teachers to choose modality based on their pedagogical expertise and their ability to best evaluate classroom safety from an “on-the-ground” perspective. Faculty recognize this flexibility is for a limited time, and they will base their decision first and foremost on their students’ holistic well-being and the best path forward for their success.

In conversation with our Labor partners across the UO, we are cognizant that the University cannot “shut down.” We also recognize we are in a privileged position where we are able to deliver our mission-critical responsibility of engaged, inclusive, and research-led teaching via two different modalities. Many of our Labor cousins and bargaining unit members can’t Zoom in to their jobs. But we are able to do so, and, as we’ve proved, do so effectively. We cannot stress enough that despite the limited data upper administration may have on student experiences during the pandemic, the realities for our students in the here and now are much more complicated. Teachers hear directly from their students what they’re experiencing now. This is why we are best suited to gauge what is pedagogically best for our students. It is an odd thing that we must stress this point. We were all hired for our pedagogical expertise and yet our expertise from within the classroom is disregarded.

Clarifying the application of Provost Phillips’ direction for when instructors may request remote instruction does not address the root issue: faculty need to have flexibility given their on-the-ground assessment and expertise involving numerous factors that may render a change in teaching modality during the pandemic. Factors not included in Provost Phillips’ policy (e.g., inadequate classroom technology, technology mismatch between classroom and teaching faculty, etc.) require faculty to work longer hours to deliver quality instruction to all of their students. Our cousins in SEIU working to support faculty with their IT needs and maintain a healthy environment in our classrooms and offices are incredibly overburdened. These are compounding pressure points unaccounted for in the current absence-based modality policy.

We argue that all faculty’s personal situations should be considered in teaching modality and support, but your persistent denial of the effects of these personal problems caused by the pandemic–among them the particular crisis in childcare, particularly for parents of unvaccinated children below age five, and faculty juggling all of this while teaching and conducting research–is leading to a significant proportion of the workforce nearing a breaking point. We believe our action items are well within reason given the current social conditions. Asynchronous or remote teaching as needed while caretaking (or other extraordinary circumstances) and establishing protocol for unit heads to ensure full participation in departmental governance are reasonable responses to the level of crisis caretakers are experiencing.

Your insistence that you continue to handle each faculty member’s situation individually on a case-by-case basis is putting faculty through more stress, labor, and time, and also drastically increasing the university’s administrative capacity. This is an issue of equity; not all faculty have the time, energy, and support of their supervisors to go through the individualized administrative process to fight to improve their own working conditions.

We wish our efforts and discussions could have been more productive. We are all striving for quality, safe working conditions while maintaining excellence in teaching and research. We will be pursuing further efforts to ensure faculty can maintain both without more detriment to their health and wellbeing.

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6 Responses to Pres Schill and Prov Phillips blow off faculty covid concerns

  1. honest Uncle Gangsta says:

    Pres Schill seems to have honed his labor relations skills at his last destination, the University of Chicago Law School. Did Lori Lightfoot train this guy? Maybe Schill could teach a case study on the Chicago Teachers Union and covid. But more help is on the way. Andre LeDuc and his resilience brigade. (Don’t hear from Andre much lately.) Patrick the nonpareil.

    Interestingly, I find much more useful info about covid at the website of OSU that’s the real OSU in Corvallis.

    I should look for their stats, what are they?

  2. Just another uncle says:

    You lost me at “we were all hired for our pedagogical expertise”

    • Dog says:

      Indeed, I have zero pedagogical expertise but I was hired, but again that was most likely a clerical error. Dogs are prone to those.

  3. cdsinclair says:

    The long arc of the story is that (in my estimation) President Schill believes in the “big man” version of history whereby the right individual in the right job at the right time can lead an institution to greatness. I’m sure this version can work out in certain instances where there is ample trust in dear leader. However, it is extremely difficult to engender that trust as an outsider especially when no effort was put into building it in the pre-pandemic years of his presidency. (Indeed, he spent years alienating career faculty, GEs and staff, and well, pretty much everyone who isn’t a named chair).

    When the pandemic hit, he had scant good will to rely on. No hard-built community spirit to ease the difficulties. In fact, in May 2020 Johnson Hall flipped out and convinced themselves the end was nigh, and resorted to extortion to negotiate an (ultimately unnecessary) pay cut for faculty. Remember the 211 faculty whose jobs were unnecessarily threatened in the first two months of a global pandemic? (Johnson Hall meet your albatross).

    Unfortunately, President Schill hasn’t learned that his particular leadership style doesn’t work here. And he hasn’t pivoted to the inclusive problem solving model that is so desperately needed. Instead he wants to believe that through force of will and sterling decision making that his decisions and choices will lead UO to a brighter future. He’s wrong though. His decisions during the pandemic have not been sterling and the alienation of non-inclusive, dictatorial decision making has caused many people to withdraw their labor instead of leaning in during a difficult time.

    Unless his outmoded form of top-down, the-power-is-all-mine leadership is rectified, I think UO will have a difficult post-pandemic future. Things are not going to flip back to where they were before 2020. Faculty are not going to forget how they were disempowered by dictates and not provided the tools or time to do what was necessary to meet the moment.

    Unless there is a major course correction the dead albatross will continue to hang limply around his neck.

    • TooTired says:

      Over 300 classified staff were laid off. How many have been recalled? While management complains they can’t hire anyone? Is the University reputation that terrible? Is that terrible reputation properly earned?

  4. anonymous says:

    Indeed. Departments get permission from CAS to shut front office when there’s a (possible) COVID exposure (classified staff). CAS has the last word for remote work schedule for classified staff. OSHA policy is to encourage all remote work for quality of life in general. Faculty are becoming the same indistinguishable, interchangeable, and less worthy cogs that are classified staff.