September 6th, 2022
We, the Executive Council of the Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition Local #6546, call on the leadership of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) to institute a more robust Covid testing system and to reinstate the classroom mask mandate. We make this call not only for the safety of our members and the entire Champaign-Urbana community, but for the preservation of a quality learning environment for the students of UIUC.
Current Covid transmission rates at UIUC are at 18%. This alarmingly high percentage has occurred even with a low testing rate, the result of UIUC having moved to a testing system that does not match campus need. This is a sharp change from the nation-leading testing policy previously in place. We appreciate the Chancellor’s recent promise that leadership is “working diligently to expand on-campus PCR testing for our faculty, staff and students and their families to provide increased protection” (September 2nd Campus Massmail). However, until this testing is a reality, rather than a promise, we must call on the administration of UIUC to return to their previous leadership in Covid testing.
Furthermore, a recent study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston University School of Public Health, and the Boston Public Health Commission “found that dropping mask mandates was associated with an additional 44.9 COVID-19 cases per 1,000 students and staff over 15 weeks after the lifting of the statewide school masking requirement. The researchers said that represented nearly 30 percent of all cases observed in schools during that time.” We call on the administration of UIUC to do better for the UIUC community and reinstate the simple, but effective transmission intervention of a mask mandate.
A high Covid transmission rate is not only a threat to the health and safety of our community, but a disruption to the learning environment at UIUC. Covid-positive students fall behind in their work, and even those who do alternative asynchronous assignments often miss the real-time discussions and interactions that take place in a live classroom, even when Zoomed in. Their instructors must then work overtime to adjust teaching modalities and grant extensions. They often meet individually with students in an effort to help them recover from their absence. A better testing system and mask mandate would ensure the best possible learning experience for our students and the best possible working conditions for our faculty.
the Executive Council of the Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition, Local #6546