Press release: IU Grad Workers express concerns about university covid policies

The Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition sent a press release to members of the media Wednesday with details of a letter to IU officials expressing concerns about Indiana University’s Covid policies. The IGWC recently submitted 1,600 union cards from graduate workers to the IU Board of Trustees and called for a union election.

Here is the text of the press release:

“COVID Letter Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

IU GRAD WORKERS VOICE CONCERNS OVER UNIVERSITY COVID POLICIES

The Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition – United Electrical Workers (IGWC-UE) has written a letter addressing concerns over Indiana University’s COVID-related policies. The letter, addressed to IU President Pamela Whitten, Interim Provost John Applegate, and a variety of Vice Provosts, notes that “there is growing concern among members of the Indiana University community that we are not well equipped for an in-person semester.” The letter cites a variety of other Universities that have opted for beginning their courses online for the Spring semester. The IGWC-UE states that “we believe additional protective measures should be taken” in order to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant of the SARS-COV-2 virus through the IU and greater Bloomington community.

Two concerns are raised in the letter which make suggestions for more protective measures to be instituted by IU. The first concern “urge[s] the university to provide KN95/N95 masks in each campus building.” Despite IU recommending KN95/N95 masks due to their superior protective qualities, the university continues to provide standard surgical masks in various campus buildings.

The second concern noted by the IGWC-UE addresses the inconsistencies in university policy regarding in-person instruction. The letter notes that confusion has arisen around whether or not instructors have the freedom to transition their course to an online format if they are to test positive with COVID. The University’s policy on Faculty Instructional Responsibilities indicates that “variations from the schedule may occur for a variety of reasons, including illness, professional activities, and pedagogical considerations.” IU’s COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions Page, however, is inconsistent with this policy in stating that “the mode of instruction indicated in the course schedule is the mode that should be used to deliver the course.” The letter requests “that graduate student workers who are expected to teach or work in campus facilities have greater flexibility in whether they deliver instruction online or remotely.”

Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition

[email protected] www.indianagradworkers.org

19 January 2022

IGWC-UE member John Ferrand of SPEA states that, “IU is responsible for the health of its community. If it determines that in-person courses are the proper method of instruction for the Spring semester, then it needs to provide the necessary protections that increase our health and safety.” Katie Shy, an IGWC-UE member from the English department, adds that “graduate workers are in an especially precarious position as we begin an in-person semester. We are tasked with instructing the majority of courses at IU. This is a responsibility we take pride in, but find it increasingly difficult to do so without the assurance that the University has our best interests in mind.”

The IGWC-UE letter comes in the midst of a surge of positive cases of COVID-19 due to the spread of the omicron variant, pushing Monroe county into the county advisory red zone. IU is in its second week of in-person instruction, contributing to the spread of omicron through Monroe county.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the IGWC-UE has advocated for the health and safety of graduate workers who comprise a significant portion of Associate Instructors, Graduate Assistants, Research Assistants, and Faculty Assistants. In addition to demanding COVID protections for graduate workers among other things, the IGWC-UE has called on the University to ensure that workers have access to consistent pay, healthcare, and housing where it applies.

In December 2021, the IGWC-UE submitted nearly 1,600 union cards to the IU Board of Trustees and called upon the University to hold a union election for graduate workers. The 1,600 union cards represent a majority of the estimated 2,500 graduate workers that are employed by IU. The IGWC-UE requested a response from the University by February 1. The University has yet to respond.

For further questions and correspondence, contact Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition media correspondent, Cole Nelson ([email protected]).

Social Media:

https://www.facebook.com/IndianaGrads/ https://www.twitter.com/indianagrads https://www.instagram.com/indianagrads/”

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