July 19, 2021
Truman’s AAUP Executive Council met with President Thomas on Tuesday, July 13th to discuss our current agenda for the coming academic year and the evolving COVID-19 safety protocols. Below is a summary of this meeting.
AAUP informed President Thomas that improved faculty compensation is one of our primary initiatives this year. More specifically, we would like to provide feedback on and advocate for a progressive parental leave policy. Initial recommendations from the PPC Council are currently under discussion between Human Resources and TSU’s General Council. Dr. Thomas said the outcome of that discussion should be available soon. In regard to salaries, President Thomas informed the group that with the 3.7% increase to core appropriations from Governor Parson they are looking at salary increases for January 2022. The AAUP executive committee also intends to look into the relative quality of TSU’s health insurance policies this academic year.
Given the following factors, AAUP expressed concern about the current campus plan to return to campus unmasked, without social distancing and without a vaccine mandate:
- Missouri is among the worst states in the country in rising Delta variant cases and the Adair County Health Department has reported the first case of a person with the Delta variant in June;
- Adair County’s COVID-19 cases have gone up significantly lately, with 17 new cases and one death in the two days leading up to the meeting;
- the Delta variant is significantly more contagious than the original strain of the coronavirus.
AAUP executive Council put forward the following requests to President Thomas:
- We requested that the University consider joining more than 600 institutions nationwide who are requiring vaccination of their students. President Thomas said that the school will re-examine requiring vaccines when they are no longer under emergency status and are fully approved but will not be requiring vaccines prior to that. The primary rationale behind this decision is the potential legal liability of requiring an emergency use authorization vaccine.
- We asked President Thomas to commit to reevaluate the policy about masking as conditions in the wider community change. President Thomas said the administration will continue to consider context, particularly in relation to conditions in the wider community such as the number of hospital beds available and severity of the spread of the variant.
- We asked President Thomas whether faculty could require students in their own classrooms to wear masks; she said that they may not. She emphasized that for anyone who is fully vaccinated, the choice to wear a mask makes you well protected. Our concern is that we have no way of knowing whether unmasked students are fully vaccinated. We were encouraged to learn that the administration plans to follow similar contact tracing and quarantining protocols this academic year as they did last year.
- AAUP Executive Council requested more transparency about decision making and a faculty forum that would help explain the science and the administration’s decision making process in the week leading up to the start of classes as a way to help ease faculty anxieties. We were informed of the University’s most recent procedure for addressing COVID positive employee cases on campus and that in certain situations on a case-by-case basis, such as in nursing or education, vaccines may be required of students to engage in off-campus course requirements.
Ch. 6 Board of Governors Language
AAUP Executive Council members will be meeting with Provost Gooch the week of July 19 to discuss the Ch. 6 Board of Governors language. Our goal is to put the document back in line with the AAUP Statement of Principles in these two ways:
- To include all full-time faculty members, regardless of the length of their contract or whether they are tenure-track, in the policy.
- To put the dates of notification of non-reappointment back in line with AAUP principles to give faculty adequate time to seek out another position in the event of nonreappointment.
President Thomas said they are consulting the General Council about the legal implications of these documents in relation to employees that are “similarly situated.” Truman’s AAUP Executive Council offered to furnish a letter from National AAUP on this topic for clarification purposes.
If you would like to provide any feedback to the AAUP Executive Council, we are happy to speak with you. Our ongoing aim is to represent faculty interests.
Truman AAUP Executive Council