Covid-19 and Fall instruction

The university announced in June 2020 a plan to return to face-to-face instruction in the Fall. There are limited exceptions ‘for faculty members who are at higher risk for severe illness as defined by the CDC‘. Our members have a range of different opinions on the most prudent course of action for the Fall semester. But we are united in our belief that this plan, and the process that went into producing it, violate the principles of shared governance.

The decision-making process itself was opaque and did not involve a wide or representative group of instructors. The university has created a summer task force of Faculty Senators focused on the return to campus, but that group is limited to providing feedback on administrative plans, and has not been involved in the actual formulation of those plans. There is no formal mechanism governing how or whether the feedback provided by that group is incorporated into official university plans. This is unacceptable. All stakeholders must be involved in the planning process in a meaningful way.

The plan unilaterally imposes face-to-face teaching on a majority of instructors. This is equally unacceptable: instructors have the right to determine the best, safest, and most effective way to deliver their classes. We understand that the university faces dire financial challenges from the current pandemic, but that is not a reason to ride roughshod over academic freedom and shared governance. No instructor should be forced to enter a learning environment that they deem unsafe.

We endorse the AAUP principles of faculty representation in university decision-making and of faculty autonomy in decision-making about course delivery. These principles are clearly delineated in a statement released by a midwestern coalition of AAUP chapters.