SIU unions oppose order to in-person classes as COVID rages

Edwardsville, IL – Unions representing Southern Illinois University faculty and staff are opposing an order by the University Board and its president, Dan Mahoney, that all classes return to meeting in person.

“The board and president are putting students, faculty and staff at risk at a time when the positivity rate, both on campus and in the community in which we live and work, has never been higher,” said union President Ed Navarre, speaking on behalf of the SIUE Faculty Association, the Non-tenure-track Faculty Association and the Professional Staff Association, representing about 850 faculty members.

“We can’t help but feel that we are being treated as expendable.”

The mandate, issued from Carbondale, came just five business days after faculty and staff were ordered to shift classes to an online format for the first week of the semester.

Positive test results have increased throughout the SIU system. The seven-day average for COVID-19 positivity among students and employees at SIUE reached 13 percent before students returned to campus, and a rate of eight percent is supposed to trigger restrictions.

“We had only two days’ notice to completely overhaul the first week of classes, and now in the middle of the first week, we get two days’ notice to shift everything back,” Navarre said. “This is not how quality, thoughtful teaching is done, and it is certainly not how faculty and staff want to do things at SIUE.”

Michele Lorenzini, president of the Non-Tenure Track Faculty Association, said the response is not well organized. “For example, there is no mechanism for mandatory campus testing to be enforced. Also, faculty won’t know by Tuesday which students were not tested, or tested positive, and are not allowed in the classroom,” she said.

Offices have been required to “de-densify” she said, indicating the campuses are not safe. “Yet all the classrooms have been returned to full capacity, so faculty and students will not have social distancing,” she added.

The highest positivity rates in Madison County are among those 12 to 39. The campus has an approximately 80 percent vaccination rate, but the booster is not required. Additionally, the SIUE campus Head Start program serves students who are too young to be vaccinated.

Kim McClellan, union head for 200 members at the SIU East St. Louis center plus counselors and advisors at Edwardsville, said the SIU decision is putting the community in danger.

“Jeopardizing student-facing staff during a pandemic goes against the University’s stated values of wisdom and integrity,” she said. “The community we serve includes families, students, and staff from among the most vulnerable populations. The mandate is silent about how we should keep trying to keep staff and students safe with such limited resources and options.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top