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