Announcements: Message from QUFA President re: Return to Campus (Winter 2022)

Dear QUFA Members,

As you are aware from Principal’s message of January 28th in-person activities including classroom teaching will resume on February 28th.  In taking this decision the University is acting on advice from Public Health officials about the safety of in-person activities by that date, based on epidemiological evidence.

QUFA has been working to ensure that the university meets its obligation to provide a safe working environment for faculty to teach in and for students to learn in, and also for librarians and archivists to do their work in. After much effort, QUFA has recently gotten the university to adopt a ventilation standard of 5 equivalent air changes per hour (eACH) in teaching spaces. This represents a major step forward in ensuring that ventilation at Queen’s serves as an effective layer of protection against Covid-19. QUFA also lobbied hard for the adoption of high-quality medical grade or N95 masks. While we were not successful in getting N95 masks, the university has announced that it will be providing all employees and students with ASTM F2100 Level 2 medical-grade masks. The University’s very high vaccination rate, coupled with strong masking requirements, and the commitment to ensuring a high level of ventilation, led Public Health to advise that the University can safely resume in-person activities even without physical distancing limits.

The Provost’s message of February 3rd makes clear that “all classes that were originally scheduled to be offered in-person in the winter term will resume in-person instruction on February 28, 2022. Classes that are scheduled to be in-person will not have hybrid delivery options.”  [emphasis added] The 2021-2022 Course Delivery MOA that QUFA and the university signed in May 2021 provides for mechanisms to ensure that enough remote courses will be offered so that students who cannot attend in person as a result of the pandemic can progress through their programs to graduation, and faculty who require an accommodation on a protected ground under the Ontario Human Rights Code (Articles 1.b and 1.e) may be accommodated. I would emphasize here that these provisions do not permit dual modes of delivery, i.e. hybrid teaching unless faculty are directed to do so and are provided additional support and compensation by the university (Article 1.d). I would also like to emphasize that faculty were to have been informed of their workload for the current academic year in June 2021 including which courses would be offered in a classroom, online, or via remote delivery (Article 1.c).

To be clear then: individual instructors are not free to select their preferred mode of delivery, nor may instructors, on their own, negotiate with their Heads or Deans the ability to teach remotely. Instructors who believe that they require an accommodation to continue teaching remotely beyond February 28th should contact QUFA Grievance Officer, Peggy Smith (smithpe@queensu.ca) as soon as possible so that arrangements can be made per Article 1.b.

In the event that you become ill and cannot attend campus, you have the right not to attend your classes while you recover. If you find yourself in this situation, you should contact your Unit Head.

Of course, it is possible that the virus will surge again; if we have learned anything from the pandemic so far it is that nothing is certain in terms of how the virus may progress. The 2021-2022 Course Delivery MOA provides that if local health authorities, and/or the provincial government, mandate the reinstatement of physical distancing regulations or implements stay at home orders …” (Article 3) we can be directed to teach remotely again for the remainder of the term.

Let us hope that this doesn’t happen. But bearing in mind the events of the fall term exam period, it would be prudent, before it gets too late in the term, to consider reweighting activities in your classes, or even adding a new deliverable or two (such as an extra essay or assignment) such that your final exams can be reweighted lower or done away with entirely for this term.

I hope that you have a positive experience returning to the classroom to end the term. I for one am looking forward to getting back in person. Stay safe.

Sincerely,

Jordan Morelli – President
Queen’s University Faculty Association