KU Faculty Say No to KU's COVID Policy
Open Letter to Provost Bichelmeyer and Chancellor Girod/June 26.2020
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KU FACULTY DEMAND
On June 26, 2020 a group of ad hoc KU faculty members sent an open letter to Provost Bichelmeyer and Chancellor Girod regarding the proposed re-opening of KU’s campus in fall 2020. The group was united in their anger at the administration’s failure to present a thoughtful, equitable, and safe plan to return to on-campus teaching and demanded that KU’s first priority must be the safety and health of all members of our campus community. The letter received over 500 signatures and OneKU was born.
Excerpts of our demands are below.
MORE TRUST, MORE VOICE
The proposed plan to require ADA accommodations in order to be exempted from in person teaching is unwieldy, discriminatory, and raises major confidentiality concerns. Instructors are best equipped to know our own working conditions, including what is appropriate and safe for the delivery of courses, as well as our own health and family situations.
MORE PLANNING, MORE SCIENCE
Detailed plans for free testing, contact tracing, and quarantine protocols must be in place before making decisions about returning to the classroom and other public campus spaces.
We reject administrators’ claims that the decision to reopen campus is motivated by concern for our “most vulnerable” students, rather than the financial bottom line. Deep concern for those who belong to communities we know to be most vulnerable to this virus, including Black, Latinx, and Native populations, people with disabilities or who are immunocompromised, and those with high viral loads caused by other conditions, is at the heart of our demand for stronger health protocols.
MORE INCLUSION, MORE SUPPORT
Graduate and international students have been denied the care their circumstances dictate. The proposed re-opening plan relies on graduate students as instructors, who will assume the most risk with the least protection of anyone at KU. They are excluded from the State Employee Health Plan, and by extension, the COVID-19 protection afforded to SEHP members. Additionally, for the 2020-2021 year, KU has almost doubled fees for international students while offering no accommodations or assistance for students traveling from countries with COVID-19 restrictions in place.
The announced pay cuts, euphemistically described as a “savings plan,” are unfairly structured, asking the most from those in the lower and middle tiers. The administration must present us with a progressive system of equitably structured pay cuts that reflects the full spectrum of KU salaries, with no cuts for those making less than $65,000 and additional, graduated cuts beyond the current $200,000 cap.
MORE TRANSPARENCY, MORE ADVOCACY, MORE INFORMATION
We need a championing of KU scholarship as an essential public good in Kansas. We seek more faculty input into KU Endowment priorities and demand full disclosure on recent-past and projected budget shortfalls and spending commitments.
The urgency of our response is underscored by this week’s news of large-scale COVID outbreaks in several US states, including our region. If recent statements from the Provost and Chancellor are to be believed, ending social injustice and health and economic inequality is a top priority of this administration. Therefore, it must make a strong, unequivocal statement placing the public health of our entire community over any individual’s right to an ill-defined “on campus experience” despite how dearly we all wish to be back in our studios, labs, theaters, libraries, and classrooms.