Members of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) and CUNY students gathered outside Hunter College Thursday, August 26 to demand improvements to the College’s reopening plan, which they say puts students, faculty and staff at risk for potential COVID transmission.
The union is calling upon CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez and Hunter College President Jennifer Raab to allow more flexibility in the required number of in-person class sessions at Hunter, as other colleges have instituted in the face of the COVID Delta variant. Currently, Hunter is offering only 35% of its courses fully online, fewer than any other CUNY senior college. The union wants unvaccinated individuals with access to campus to be tested every three days, as opposed to the current policy of every seven day. They want most work to be done remotely until the October 7th deadline by which CUNY students must be vaccinated. And they are demanding that Hunter college institute CDC social distancing guidelines for all workers and students. The Hunter plan requires six feet of social distance for unvaccinated individuals only, who are also expected to self identify.
Jen Gaboury, Hunter’s union chapter chair and a lecturer in gender studies, raised the alarm: “Hunter’s reopening plan is rigid and unsafe. Our staff and faculty should have the same flexibility to work remotely and the space to socially distance, as is happening across the rest of CUNY. We are an outlier and not in a good way.”
Twenty thousand students have access to Hunter College campuses. The PSC represents 2800 Hunter College employees at four separate campus sites throughout Manhattan in titles that include full-time faculty, adjunct faculty, professional staff, and college lab technicians.
While the 7-day average number of new cases in NYC is currently stable, more than 1500 people per day are still either testing positive or have suspected new cases throughout the city. At least 56 faculty, staff and students have died as a result of COVID, and CUNY students tend to reside in the communities hit hardest by the pandemic.
Rosa Squillacote, vice president for part-time personnel with the PSC and an adjunct lecturer, at Hunter adds: “With the rise of the Delta variant, most of CUNY is relaxing its rules around hybrid requirements that determine the courses taught both in-person and online. Hunter and John Jay Colleges are going in the wrong direction, requiring that a minimum of 50% of classes be taught in-person. We don’t need inflexibility right now. We need a plan that keeps us safe, especially when many students, faculty, and staff are not vaccinated.”
Associate Professor Tanya Agathocleous, a Hunter PSC chapter grievance counselor, notes, “Staff have already reported to work in spaces requiring window ventilation, only to find them closed and their direct supervisors resistant to opening them due to confusion about the policy.”
The union specifically is calling attention to the following issues:
- Hunter is ignoring CDC guidelines recommending 6 feet of distancing in mixed populations of vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
- Unvaccinated individuals are only required to be tested once a week; current data on the Delta variant indicate that those infected become infectious 3 to 4 days after exposure.
- A sizable number of classrooms and office spaces throughout Hunter’s several campuses are relying solely on window ventilation to provide safer airflow.
- CUNY has not released the ventilation data and engineering reports it commissioned to study environmental conditions.
- Faculty are being forced to adhere to modes of instruction agreed upon months ago, before the Delta variant became widespread.
- CUNY is failing to be transparent regarding federal COVID stimulus money, and pandemic-related job losses among adjuncts and administrative staff have not been reversed.
For additional information:
HUNTER COLLEGE REOPENING PLAN: https://hunter.cuny.edu/focus-on-campus#detailed
CDC GUIDELINES COLLEGES, UNIVERSITIES, AND HIGHER LEARNING: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/colleges-universitie...
NYC COVID DATA: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/covid/covid-19-data.page