The full message is here. Ask Number One:
Ask 1 – Flexibility for Illness and Quarantine
We told the administrators that our first priority was for instructional faculty to have a process for moving their class to a remote modality if they have COVID, need to quarantine, or have children who cannot attend school because of COVID.
Going into the conversation, we anticipated that this would be our most difficult ask. To date, we have only been told “the course schedule is the course schedule,” and it cannot be altered, leaving faculty no flexibility to take care of themselves or their children if needed.
We raised the issue that faculty and/or their household members may contract COVID, be exposed, or find themselves in a quarantine situation. When a child tests positive in a childcare center, that center or classroom often closes, and children are asked to get tested and to quarantine. School-age children who contract or are exposed to COVID will also be required to quarantine. Under these circumstances teaching remotely would be a logical solution if the faculty member is not too ill.
The administrators seemed receptive to this idea. They liked that it had “triggers” that were clear and would have a definitive ending period. They seemed to agree that there might be circumstances when it was unsafe for faculty to be in a classroom, and that there might be situations where faculty had unavoidable commitments preventing them from being at work.
When the conversation moved to a larger discussion about faculty being professionals who can choose when it is necessary to change a course modality, we had a more difficult time. For instance, we raised the issue of faculty parents who are concerned about sending their children to school or day care during a pandemic. The administrators reiterated their objection to faculty working remotely due to their “fears” about COVID. We had some sharp conversation about when “fears” during a pandemic justified action and whether they should be dismissed at all. It was clear, though, that the administration is not willing to be flexible about teaching modalities outside of those dictated by medical requirements or government-directed quarantine.
To be clear, if a faculty member has a medically required reason to teach remotely, they can pursue accommodations through Human Resources. This appears to be the one and only way the administration sees teaching remotely as an acceptable solution. If you have had any difficulty with the accommodations process, please reach out to us and we can help.
We hope the administration will act in a timely and collaborative manner with us to work through remote options for faculty, but in general, the conversation around this topic was tough and took the bulk of our meeting time. While many of us faculty see this as a fairly simple request for instructors of record to adjust their class modality as necessary given the extreme and unusual circumstances of the pandemic, our administrators are finding this topic difficult to navigate.