An Open Letter to the Presidents at the University of Regina and the Federated Colleges

Through­out the pan­dem­ic, URFA has been advo­cat­ing for safe work­ing con­di­tions for URFA mem­bers. As poten­tial for some or increased return to cam­pus is being explored, URFA’s Equi­ty Com­mit­tee and Pres­i­dent have issued an open let­ter to the pres­i­dents at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Regi­na and the Fed­er­at­ed Col­leges to raise ongo­ing equi­ty con­cerns with require­ments to being on cam­pus. If you are fac­ing bar­ri­ers or chal­lenges in the work­place, you may be inter­est­ed in explor­ing a work­place accom­mo­da­tion.

Novem­ber 22, 2021 letter

Dear Pres­i­dents Kesh­en, Ottmann, Hele­wa, and Jerry,

We are writ­ing to you as the Uni­ver­si­ty of Regi­na Fac­ul­ty Association’s (URFA) Equi­ty Committee.

There is an ongo­ing equi­ty con­cern for fac­ul­ty and staff in all sev­en bar­gain­ing units that URFA rep­re­sents with respect to the require­ments to be on cam­pus. This includes Admin­is­tra­tive, Pro­fes­sion­al and Tech­ni­cal (APT) employ­ees who were man­dat­ed to be on cam­pus since July, 2021 and all Aca­d­e­m­ic employ­ees who are expect­ed to return to cam­pus in the Win­ter 2022 term. We rec­og­nize that URFA mem­bers express­ing con­cerns also include those at Cam­pi­on and Luther Col­leges and First Nations Uni­ver­si­ty and that these insti­tu­tions may take direc­tion from the Uni­ver­si­ty in response to COVID-19 con­cerns. We also rec­og­nize that man­dates to be on cam­pus may be dif­fer­ent at the var­i­ous insti­tu­tions where URFA mem­bers are employed. 

While we appre­ci­ate the inten­si­ty of the sit­u­a­tion, there is still: (1) a gen­er­al lack of con­sul­ta­tion and options for all URFA mem­bers, (2) a lack of clar­i­ty on the options (face-to-face, remote, hybrid, hyflex) that have been made avail­able to fac­ul­ty, (3) incon­sis­ten­cies across fac­ul­ties and units regard­ing infor­ma­tion and options pro­vid­ed for fac­ul­ty, and (4) a lack of clar­i­ty on the def­i­n­i­tion of what con­sti­tutes exten­u­at­ing cir­cum­stances’ for faculty.

The increase of peo­ple on cam­pus also increas­es the risk of expo­sure to COVID-19 for all cam­pus com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers. There is also a broad­er health equi­ty con­cern that we would like addressed as it relates to stu­dent and com­mu­ni­ty health and well­be­ing. Evi­dence tells us that Social Deter­mi­nants of Health cor­re­late direct­ly to COVID-19 out­comes (e.g. Roll­ston and Galea 2020; Abrams and Sze­fler 2020; Burström and Tao 2020). Ground­ed with­in emerg­ing sci­en­tif­ic research, the fur­ther open­ing up of cam­pus cre­ates the con­di­tions for anoth­er surge in cas­es in our com­mu­ni­ty, which will dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly impact numer­ous mar­gin­al­ized groups.

Your deci­sions impact the cam­pus com­mu­ni­ty, notably staff, fac­ul­ty, and stu­dents: a) with vul­ner­a­ble fam­i­ly mem­bers and/​or who are immuno­com­pro­mised; b) who have had COVID-19 and car­ry long-term symp­toms (and who can get rein­fect­ed); c) who can­not get vac­ci­nat­ed and/​or have fam­i­ly mem­bers who can­not get vac­ci­nat­ed. We believe that stu­dents may choose not to enrol in on cam­pus cours­es because of con­cerns relat­ed to being in-per­son and we are con­cerned about the poten­tial impact on fac­ul­ty work­load, due to can­celled cours­es. An addi­tion­al impact is the poten­tial for last minute leaves due to COVID-19 to bur­den col­leagues with addi­tion­al work (as per Prin­ci­ples Guid­ing Absence of Instruc­tors Relat­ed to COVID-19”). Fol­low­ing our uni­ver­si­ty mot­to as one who serves,” many fac­ul­ty and staff work in the com­mu­ni­ty with vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple and risk bring­ing COVID from the cam­pus (class­rooms, the library, recre­ation­al spaces, and offices) to the com­mu­ni­ty and vice versa.

We ask that the Pres­i­dent and Exec­u­tive Man­age­ment Team recon­sid­er the cur­rent plan for Win­ter 2022 to pro­vide fac­ul­ty and staff with a wider range of choic­es regard­ing work­ing and teach­ing options, and to address indi­vid­ual con­cerns and seek equi­table solu­tions to this mat­ter. As well, we ask that the UofR Admin­is­tra­tion expect Deans and Direc­tors to pro­vide a con­sis­tent mes­sage to URFA mem­bers on strate­gies for man­ag­ing the demands of teach­ing and work­ing in per­son on cam­pus when COVID-19 chal­lenges present. 


Claire Carter, URFA Equi­ty Com­mit­tee Chair

Britt Hall, URFA President