OU Profs and Staff Seeking Stronger Response from Administrators

Mike Seals - December 1, 2020 10:28 pm

by Cassandra Sweetman

NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – A group of professors and staff at the University of Oklahoma are demanding a discussion and a strong response to the pandemic from the administration.

In October, the OU chapter of the American Association of University Professors wrote a declaration with a list of solutions and sent it to the administration. Two months later, they are publicizing that the university has not responded.

On Tuesday, Michael Givel, a political science professor, said the group’s membership has reached about 70 people, doubling since October.

The letter they wrote includes more enforcement of OU’s “Safe and Resilient” policies, as well as Norman ordinances regarding social distancing and improving how cases are reported on campus. They also take issue with the requirement to work in-person for many staff and faculty members who don’t fit in the at-risk category.

“Working in what would likely be or is unsafe work conditions, hazardous work conditions,” said Professor Givel, “and that’s particularly people who are on the front line who do things like cafeteria work and janitorial work and so forth. Adjunct instructors are particularly affected by this.”

The full letter is as follows:

Following the lack of response to their earlier “Declaration on Academic Freedom and Worker Health and Safety,” OU AAUP chapter requests meetings

NORMAN, Oklahoma — On October 1st of this semester, the OU chapter of the AAUP delivered its “Declaration on Academic Freedom and Worker Health and Safety” to the OU administration (OU President Joseph Harroz, Jr.; Interim Provost Jill Irvine; and Board of Regents members Phil Albert, Michael Cawley, Anita Holloway, Frank Keating, Gary Pierson, Natalie Shirley, and Eric Stevenson).

This declaration enumerated numerous instances in which the administration is failing to act in the interest of public safety, employee well-being, shared governance, and academic freedom, and called upon the administration to rectify these failures

– Updating the OU “COVID-19 Dashboard” case reporting system to provide more useful data on COVID-19 cases at OU.
– Actually and vigorously enforcing the OU “Safe and Resilient” policies and local city ordinances related to proper wearing of masks and social distancing, including but not limited to OU athletic events.
– Providing clear trigger criteria for when OU will go primarily and immediately online. Moving all university operations, including Spring 2021 courses, online as default, and allowing instructors and other staff to opt into in-person work or teaching models as they see fit
– Reconsidering changes to the six-tier benefits system, and seek broader input from the OU community before implementing any changes

Due to a lack of any response to this declaration from the OU administration, OU AAUP has delivered an invitation to the OU administration to attend its next meeting on December 4th, 2020, and we invite the OU administration to host a public, town hall-style informational meeting including representatives from the Faculty Senate, Staff Senate, OU SGA, and OU AAUP before the end of the Fall 2020 semester.


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