Letter to the Editor: University must address COVID health and safety concerns

Asks are now more urgent than ever

Letter to the Editor: University must address COVID health and safety concerns

On Sept. 16, a coalition of students, faculty and staff sent President Burwell and the cabinet a letter drawing attention to urgent COVID-19 health and safety concerns felt by our entire campus community. We asked for bold and rapid action to protect all of us and allow the mission of the University to be carried out to the fullest.

A few highlights of the letter include demands for: 

  1. Clearer masking enforcement guidelines, especially for shared spaces, with clear lines of authority. 
  2. The designation of specific individuals that all community members can go to with COVID-19 concerns and questions with the authority to intervene at the department level. 
  3. Action and process to fix indoor air quality and filtrating issues especially for small spaces where face to face meetings occur. Improved communication about exposure. 
  4. Expanding the testing mandate so we have some idea about asymptomatic community transmission.
  5. Transparency and community involvement in planning for post-Thanksgiving and spring modality.
  6. Accommodation processes that do not discourage students, faculty and staff who need those processes from taking advantage of them.
  7. Create systems that embrace flexibility for the community and that lower density. 

Our asks are now more urgent than ever heading into the cold weather months. Universities around the country are starting to return to online classes in the wake of the Delta variant. Every day we hear about children in the local school systems who are being required to quarantine because of outbreaks in their classrooms and for the AU community members who live with these children the guidance AU provides is confusing. We are coming up on Thanksgiving break and urgent questions about whether students should be forced to sit in classrooms together after traveling for the holiday are unanswered.

To date the only response any of the signatories to this letter have received has been a curt email that the University only wants to talk to union representatives about these issues and weeks later a brief and unsung appearance at a staff council meeting, ignoring the fact that these concerns come from all of us. Could it be that our administration doesn’t want to be accountable to all of us? If after reading the letter below you ora group you represent on campus want to be involved in pushing the University to respond materially to the entire community please reach out to: Rachel Feinstein at feinstein.rachel@gmail.com.

Signed,

Aubrey Hill - American University Provost’s Division Staff Union (SEIU Local 500), AU Career Center

Rachel Feinstein - American University Provost’s Division Staff Union (SEIU Local 500), WCL Clinical Program, WCL JD Student

Sam Sadow, American University Provost’s Division Staff Union (SEIU Local 500), AU Adjunct, Art Department

Pattie Umali, American University Provost’s Division Staff Union (SEIU Local 500), Office of Global and Immersive Studies, M.A. ‘17

Zein El-Amine, SEIU Local 500/AU Adjunct Faculty Union

David Jacobs, SEIU Local 500/AU Adjunct Faculty Union

Daniel Jenks, SEIU Local 500/AU Graduate Student Worker Union

Lola Abdulai, American University, WCL Student Bar Association President, WCL JD Student

Disability+ Faculty & Staff Affinity Group

People of Color Faculty & Staff Affinity Group

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