August 15, 2022

AAUP Update: Letter of Concern from MC Union Presidents to SVPs and Provosts

From: Zarin, Harry
Sent: Monday, January 10, 2022 2:20 PM
To: Rai, Sanjay K <sanjay.rai@montgomerycollege.edu>; Collette, Sherwin A <Sherwin.Collette@montgomerycollege.edu>; Brown, Monica R <monica.brown@montgomerycollege.edu>
Cc: Cain, Stephen D <stephen.cain@montgomerycollege.edu>; Payne, George M <george.payne@montgomerycollege.edu>; Latimer, Margaret W <margaret.latimer@montgomerycollege.edu>; Stewart, Brad J <brad.stewart@montgomerycollege.edu>; Kelley, Kimberly B <kimberly.kelley@montgomerycollege.edu>; Standing, Christopher G <chris.standing@montgomerycollege.edu>; Baldassano, Victoria A <victoria.baldassano@montgomerycollege.edu>
Subject: Letter of Concern

All:

I am sending this e-mail to all of you on behalf of the MC Presidents of AAUP, AFSCME, the Director of SEIU, and our constituents.  

We are very appreciative of all the Administration has done to help protect Montgomery College employees and students since the start of the pandemic. Providing us with appropriate training and technology has allowed us to perform our jobs from remote locations, and this has been beneficial for all of us, and most importantly, for our students. From the moment the college switched to remote instruction following spring break 2020, we have proven our flexibility as well as our dedication to the college’s mission. We accepted the challenges of embracing emerging technology, participating in necessary training, and providing high quality instruction and remote services to all of our students. 

We also appreciate the efforts of senior leadership, in consultation with the Return-to-Campus Advisory Committee, to follow COVID-19 trends and other factors in determining the operational status of the college. However, it has become increasingly difficult to make decisions and plans based on a moving target. Information we receive about COVID may change multiple times over a period of days, and this makes it especially difficult to create a coherent schedule of classes for students and instructors. Omicron continues to spread rapidly throughout the state and hospitals are reaching capacity.  In fact, Gov. Larry Hogan recently noted that “the next four to six weeks are really going to be a terrible point in this crisis” (Delkic).

We all need to be flexible and willing to adjust at a moment’s notice during this ever-changing pandemic. Unfortunately, it appears that in some cases the Administration has abandoned flexibility in favor of expediency. Suspending a long-standing telework policy and requiring all staff, administrators, and counseling faculty to be on campus four days a week makes no sense.  We have shown since the start of the pandemic that we are capable of performing our jobs from remote locations while providing student services, teaching, and counseling students, and protecting ourselves against ever-rising COVID numbers and mutations of the virus. We ask that the Administration immediately restore the telework policy that allows eligible MC employees to work from a remote location up to three days a week. A return to this policy will enable us to further protect ourselves while continuing to be open for business and serve our students.

We also ask that the Administration allow for more flexibility regarding where and how classes are taught this semester. The initial goal of teaching 70% of our classes in a face-to-face environment made sense last fall when the schedule was finalized, but COVID has changed, and the new, highly transmissible Omicron variant has the ability to infect those who are vaccinated. The massive number of positive cases and resulting hospitalizations have already placed an immense strain on our health care system. We are aware that some face-to-face classes have been switched to structured remote instruction, but we need to do more than change a small number of classes.  Many of our faculty have children who are too young to be vaccinated, and bringing them on campus into a more populated environment is not a good or safe idea.  These faculty agreed to teach face-to-face classes prior to the current mutation of the virus and spike in COVID numbers.  We recognize that MC has a student vaccination mandate in place, but we are very concerned about the low percentage of students who have uploaded their vaccination records.  This low number indicates that the faculty and staff who work face-to-face with students are being asked to work in a potentially unsafe environment.  For this reason, we ask that the Administration allow the faculty to switch their classes to SRT instruction if they and their students agree that this is something they prefer. Let’s give our faculty all the options necessary to protect themselves while at the same time providing safe and quality instruction to their students. 

We would like to discuss these requests with you before the Spring 2022 semester begins. Thank you for your consideration.

Harry N. Zarin, President AAUP

Victoria Baldassano, Director SEIU

Chris Standing, President AFSCME

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