Students, academic staff, teaching and research assistants, and support personnel have all returned to campus, and their unions and representational bodies are sounding the alarm about health, safety, and academic integrity at our university. At the heart of these concerns is the Central Administration’s continuing trend of making sweeping decisions that directly impact the well-being of our campus community without any prior consultation.
The APUO condemns the absence of consultation with affected parties prior to the implementing of the January 31 return to campus. We are equally disturbed by the ongoing lack of information regarding the implementation of any additional health and safety protocols (e.g. physical distancing, availability of masks and rapid tests, tracking outbreaks, etc.) to protect members of our community.
We stand in solidarity with the Association of Part-Time Professors of the University of Ottawa (APTPUO) who has expressed similar concerns for its membership; the only group of university employees who do not benefit from long-term disability insurance. In the face of a virus with devasting short- and long-term consequences, campus employees and students have a right to consultation and access to clear information regarding protective measures that are, and are not, being implemented in their place of work and learning.
Throughout the pandemic, the APUO has steadfastly maintained that regular and part-time professors must be free to determine how best to deliver their courses. To this end, we continue to champion the demands set out in the Inter-union Coalition’s Summer 2021 Letter:
- Democratize the decision-making process for a partial and eventual full return to campus by establishing a joint committee, with representation from all members of the Inter-union Coalition.
- Cancel plans for introducing bimodal/hyflex/hybrid teaching on a large scale and, instead, create smaller course sections to provide community members with the main options of in-person or remote learning, with the bimodal/hyflex/hybrid teaching format being limited to a maximum of 10% of course offerings in order to allow for experimentation and learning.
- Create a Special COVID-19 Recovery Mental Health Fund to support community members seeking the care they need to restore their overall wellbeing.
Our colleagues at the APTPUO have recently released a petition calling on the Central Administration to postpone the return to campus until appropriate substantive consultation about the implementation of health and safety measures have taken place, and for professors to determine how best to deliver their courses.
As you are all too aware the return to campus this week has coincided with major disturbances in the downtown core. The APUO was disappointed to see the Central Administration chose to move ahead with its planned Monday return to campus despite the Ottawa Police Service’s public request for people to avoid the downtown core.
At the time of writing, those participating in the protest have not made their way to the main campus. However, their presence throughout Ottawa’s downtown neighbourhoods affects residents’ quality of life and the ability of those who work in the area to move in and out of the city centre. With this in mind, we wish to advise members who live in CentreTown of the buddy system that has been set up on Twitter by @ellencharters. Members can direct message the account to arrange for a buddy to accompany them during their travels downtown.
The APUO condemns in the strongest possible terms the acts of hate, racism, homophobia, and transphobia as well as the other acts of intimidation that have been occurring throughout the protest. In the light of both the ongoing disruptions, and the Central Administration’s recognition of the distress they have, and are, causing members of our community, we call upon the Central Administration to agree to accommodating the requests of all campus employees and students who elect to work remotely for the duration of the protest.
We encourage members whose ability to get to campus is being impeded by the protest to contact us.