IU graduate workers raise concerns about university’s covid policies – The Bloomingtonian
The Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition sent a press release to members of the media on Wednesday with details of a letter to IU officials expressing concern about Indiana University’s Covid policies. The IGWC recently submitted 1,600 graduate worker union cards to the IU board and called for a union election.
Here is the text of the press release:
“COVID Letter Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
IU GRADUATE WORKERS EXPRESS CONCERNS ABOUT UNIVERSITY’S COVID POLICIES
The Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition – United Electrical Workers (IGWC-UE) has written a letter responding to concerns about Indiana University’s COVID-related policies. The letter, addressed to IU President Pamela Whitten, Acting Vice Provost John Applegate and various Vice Provosts, notes that “there is growing concern among members of the University of Indiana that we are not well equipped for an in-person semester”. The letter cites a variety of other universities that have chosen to start their classes online for the spring semester. The IGWC-EU states that “we believe that additional protective measures should be taken” in order to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant of the SARS-COV-2 virus through the IU and the greater Bloomington community.
Two concerns are raised in the letter which suggests that more protective measures be instituted by IU. The first concern[s] the university to provide KN95/N95 masks in every building on campus. Although IU recommends KN95/N95 masks due to their superior protective qualities, the university continues to provide standard surgical masks in various campus buildings.
The second concern noted by the IGWC-EU relates to inconsistencies in university policy regarding in-person teaching. The letter notes that confusion has arisen over whether or not instructors have the freedom to switch their course to an online format if they should test positive for COVID. The University’s Policy on Faculty Instructional Responsibilities states that “deviations from the schedule may occur for a variety of reasons, including illness, work activities, and educational considerations.” However, IU’s COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions page does not comply with this policy stating that “the mode of instruction listed in the course schedule is the mode that should be used to deliver the course. “. The letter asks “that graduate students who are expected to teach or work in campus facilities have greater flexibility to deliver courses online or remotely.”
Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition
[email protected] www.indianagradworkers.org
January 19, 2022
John Ferrand of SPEA, member of IGWC-UE, says that “IU is responsible for the health of her community. If he determines that in-person classes are the right method of instruction for the spring semester, then he must provide the necessary safeguards that increase our health and safety. Katie Shy, IGWC-EU member of the English department, adds that “graduate workers are in a particularly precarious position as we begin an in-person semester. We are responsible for teaching the majority of courses at IU. It is a responsibility we are proud of, but it is increasingly difficult to do so without the assurance that the University has our best interests in mind.
The IGWC-EU letter comes amid a surge of positive COVID-19 cases due to the spread of the omicron variant, pushing Monroe County into the county’s advisory red zone. IU is in its second week of in-person teaching, helping to spread omicron in Monroe County.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the IGWC-EU has advocated for the health and safety of graduate workers which include a significant portion of associate instructors, graduate assistants, research assistants and faculty assistants. In addition to demanding COVID protections for graduate workers, among others, the IGWC-EU has called on the University to ensure workers have access to consistent pay, healthcare and housing where it is. applied.
In December 2021, the IGWC-EU submitted nearly 1,600 union cards to the IU Board of Trustees and called on the University to hold a union election for graduates. The 1,600 union cards represent the majority of the approximately 2,500 graduate workers who are employed by IU. The IGWC-EU requested a response from the University by February 1. The University has yet to respond.
For further questions and correspondence, contact Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition media correspondent Cole Nelson ([email protected]).
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