December 5, 2021

AAUP Update-Full Faulty Meeting Follow-up and Questions for the RTCAT

August 2021

Colleagues:

On July 21 over 100 faculty members Zoomed into our first ever summer meeting of the full-time faculty.  The conversations that occurred during this meeting focused on the return to campus plans that had been announced by the Administration.  We had our own panel of experts (Collins Jones, Biotechnology-Germantown, Lori Kelman, Biotechnology-Germantown, Jennifer Capparella, Natural Sciences Department Chair- Germantown, and Melissa Sprague, Health Sciences Department Chair-TP/SS) on hand to respond to our questions and concerns.  Towards the end of the meeting three members of the Administration’s Return to Campus Coronavirus Advisory Team (Kim Kelly, Vice President and Provost-Rockville, Monique Davis, Dean of Health Sciences, Kevin Long, Chair of the RTCAT) were there to provide us with their insights into what is happening on the Committee. They also responded to several of our questions and concerns.  We are very appreciative that these employees participated in our meeting.

The meeting was recorded so that faculty who were not able to attend the meeting could still hear what was discussed during the meeting.  If you are interested in listening to the meeting, please go to the Chapter’s website, mcaaup.org, click on the link to my July 14, 2021 update, and scroll to the bottom of the page.  The link to the recording has been posted there along with the access passcode that you need to enter in order to listen to the recording.

It is important to note that information the Administration uses to make decisions regarding the COVID virus change almost daily. For example, since our meeting, the Administration has reinstituted the mask mandate based on new guidance received by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and in consultation with MCs Return-to-Campus Advisory Committee.  

Below is the list of the questions that were asked during the meeting along with responses and recommendations that were discussed by our panel of experts and the RTCAT members. 

Below the list of faculty questions and recommendations that were discussed during our meeting is a separate list of questions that the Executive Committee forwarded to the RTCAT.  We will provide you with their responses as soon as we receive them.

Return to Campus

Faculty Questions and Recommendations

As more of us plan to return to campus in the fall, we appreciate the work college leadership has done to keep the college and community informed through the online resources of the coronavirus information page. A great deal of valuable information is available there.

The purpose of this set of faculty questions and recommendations is to serve as a supplement to the information already available. Faculty offices and classrooms represent a context with distinctive concerns that likely require their own set of guidelines.

The questions and recommendations in this document were collected widely through both the faculty email list and a summer union meeting with over 100 attendees, including members of the CAT and RTCAT, who graciously accepted our invitations.

This document serves, then, to accomplish three goals:

  • to provide faculty with the responses to their questions and concerns that we have already collected.
  • to seek answers and solutions from college leadership to unanswered questions.
  • to propose viable recommendations from the faculty perspective where appropriate.

I. Questions with Guidance from College

  1. Will college be transparent about ventilation systems especially since some rooms do not have windows?

Information about the current approaches the college is taking to cleaning and ventilation:

https://www.montgomerycollege.edu/coronavirus/employees/faqs.htm

2. Will faculty know class seat size in advance?

This is the answer from college leadership via email to union leadership:

“Class size numbers were established based on the health and safety conditions (metrics) at the time the schedule was developed.  Once Montgomery County’s health and safety conditions (metrics) improved, classes that transitioned from remote to f2f did so without a change in the class size capacity.  Many remote sections were converted with a class size capacity of 12 to 14 students.  The sections added to provide more f2f options are also capped at 12 to 14 students.  During the duration of an on-campus course, we will not change the class size — even if metrics improve.  If necessary, we will meet student demand for on-campus courses by adding sections with the same 12 to 14 class size capacity.“

3. Might a course section return to remote if an instructor feels it is not safe?

Kevin Long indicated that sections cannot be switched permanently back to a remote class if it is listed as face-to-face. However, he indicated that an emergency and temporary shift to remote for a given section during the semester could be an option

4. If someone tests positive, what is the required procedure for the entire college community?

If someone has tested positive for COVID, that person should contact Public Safety at publicsafety@montgomerycollege.edu or 240-567-3333. If in contact with someone who has tested positive for more than 15 minutes without a mask, those individuals should contact Public Safety as well. It was suggested that faculty include this information in their syllabus.

5.Will the college be flexible if circumstances change and they need to change COVID policies?

Melissa Sprague indicated that the CAT has done this in the past, and she does not see any reason why they will not continue to reevaluate circumstances and make changes as needed. There may be emergency pivots to remote learning that are temporary on a case-by-case basis.

6.How flexible can we be on attendance if students are not feeling well?

Faculty are urged to be flexible so that students do not feel forced to come to campus when they feel ill. Showing flexibility while upholding standards of attendance will be a careful balancing act for each instructor.

7. Will the college provide masks and other PPE for faculty and students?

From the coronavirus information page:

Are we going to receive personal protective equipment (PPE) for all lasses/students/employees from Facilities or should each department order them? 

Yes. Upon request, Facilities will have gloves, face shields, and hand sanitizer for employees of the College community. Masks are available for all who need them and available at the Public Safety office on each campus and the CT building. 

How will we be provided with PPE by Facilities? Are employees supposed to contact Facilities?

Requests for PPE should first be sent to your department supervisor for evaluation. Upon approval, department supervisor or designee can submit the PPE request to the Facilities Service Desk. For off-site locations, such as the Community Engagement Centers and Gaithersburg Training Center, PPE can be picked up from the closest/preferred campus.   

Also, this is what the college has stated in one of their responses to union questions about this issue: “Masks and disinfecting wipes will be available in all classrooms.“ There are some questions about how this will be done and whether facilities will keep these supplies well stocked.

8. Are we going to be required to return to campus for meetings?

We have not heard yet, but we do know that there will be a face-to-face and remote option for the opening meeting. Our union meeting will be remote only. We do know that there is a face-to-face meeting scheduled at Germantown with about 80 participants so they may be waiting to see how that goes before making a final decision on a collegewide meeting guideline might be for the fall. Monique Davis said that they will be meeting soon to explore this further.

9. Will Professional Week trainings be available online? Will there be trainings that deal with COVID specifically?

Kim Kelley said that she would take this back to RTCAT.

10. Are there any FT faculty members or members of the AAUP on the Return to Campus Advisory Team?

There are currently no faculty members on the Return to Campus Advisory Team. Kevin Long did not have an explanation as to why.

11. Will MC require vaccinations at some point?

The RTCAT did today pass on their recommendation to do so to the next level, but it remains to be seen how Management will do this, what the verification process will be, how we would handle those circumstances where students cannot / will not get vaccinated.

The following set of questions and recommendations was sent to the RTCAT.  We will post the responses we receive from the RTCAT on the Chapter webpage. 

Return to Campus

Faculty Questions for the RTCAT

and Recommendations

  • Current available information is in blue font.
  • Faculty recommendations are highlighted in green.
  1. Can we dismiss students who show signs of symptoms during class? What if the student refuses to leave the classroom?

Faculty Recommendation:

If a faculty member is concerned that a student is coming to class when they appear ill, it seems appropriate to show the same kind of sympathy one might show to anyone who is ill and politely and discreetly suggest that they go home and get some rest. Explain to the student that they will not be penalized and that the instructor will work with the student to make up any missed assignments.

In the case that a student appears to exhibit symptoms of Covid but wishes to remain in the classroom, the college should think through possible Covid exposure conditions and procedures. The classroom is an indoor space where faculty and students are expected to stay and work; they are not as free to leave as other public spaces, making the classroom a unique space when considering possible Covid exposure.

Currently, the FAQ says that if an employee is concerned that a fellow employee is exhibiting COVID symptoms, they should contact their supervisor. If a student is exhibiting possible COVID symptoms and wishes to remain in the classroom, is there somebody to contact? Should the class continue as scheduled? Is there some way to mitigate student and faculty discomfort around the fear of exposure in these situations?

It would be useful to create a clear syllabus addendum: Public Safety contact info, self-reporting guidelines, outline of COVID symptoms, reminder to update contact info for tracing purposes, and procedures to follow for classroom situations where there is a potential exposure to COVID.

  • Can a faculty member dismiss class if, during class, it is discovered that someone in the classroom has tested positive for COVID?

We know that Public Safety needs to be notified in the situation, but what other procedures should be followed in the actual classroom?

Faculty Recommendation:

A faculty member should be free to dismiss class immediately on a given day if it is discovered that someone in the classroom has tested positive for Covid.

  • Can faculty put up plexiglass in their office when meeting with students?

The college already has some plexiglass barriers in appropriate places:

https://www.montgomerycollege.edu/coronavirus/employees/faqs.html

Faculty Recommendation:

The college should provide plexiglass barriers for faculty who request it. If the college will not provide these barriers, faculty should be able to put up these barriers if they wish. There needs to be very clear instruction for how does a faculty member can request plexiglas barriers for their office or classroom.

10. Are there any FT faculty members or members of the AAUP on the Return to Campus Advisory Team?

There are currently no faculty members on the Return to Campus Advisory Team. Kevin Long did not have an explanation as to why.

Faculty Recommendation:

We recommend that faculty from a range of disciplines be included on the RT Covid Advisory Team, and at least one member of the AAUP Executive Committee. There are issues in classrooms and offices that would be on the forefront of the faculty mind but might be overlooked by non-faculty leadership. Faculty should be considered a valuable resource in this regard.

11. Will MC require vaccinations at some point?

The RTCAT did today pass on their recommendation to do so to the next level, but it remains to be seen how Management will do this, what the verification process will be, how we would handle those circumstances where students cannot / will not get vaccinated.

Faculty Recommendation:

The faculty largely support a vaccination requirement for those who can / should receive it. Use Castle Branch software to verify and collect vaccination records.

  • What should we do to maintain social distance in the classroom? What do we do if the classroom does not allow us to maintain an appropriate 6 feet of distance in the classroom?

Currently, many face-to-face classes already have smaller enrollment caps to allow for social distancing, but some do not, sometimes because the classroom layout in a room like a lab may limit social distancing options, and sometimes because the class was created when the safety standards were different.

Faculty Recommendation:

Classroom enrollment should be capped at a number that allows for social distancing. Students should space themselves around the classroom, whenever possible, to maintain social distance.

  • What sorts of signage will be provided to promote public safety?

Faculty Recommendation:

To promote social distancing, decals on the floors of classrooms, waiting areas, restrooms, bus queues, and so forth could be provided indicating safe distances. Decals can be placed on the desks in classrooms to promote socially distanced seating. We recommend putting signs outlining symptoms, safety procedures, and Public Safety contact info in the following locations:

  • Parking lots.
  • Building entrances.
  • Common areas within buildings.
  • Elevator lobbies.
  • Entrances to classrooms and instructional spaces
  • How much will the college look beyond our county to gather information on global trends and what is the process used by the college to develop policies?

Faculty Recommendation:

Because Montgomery College draws from areas outside of Montgomery County for its student population, broader metrics should be considered when making Covid policies.

  • How might the college provide return to campus guidelines unique to the classroom setting?

Faculty Recommendation:

In addition to the syllabus addendum, we believe there needs to be a separate faculty FAQ on the Coronavirus Response and Return to Campus webpage. It would be particularly helpful to include particular classroom scenarios (What if a student refuses to wear a mask? What if a student exhibits COVID symptoms?) with guidelines for how to resolve each scenario.

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