January 7, 2022
- CALL TO ORDER AND WELCOME
An emergency meeting of the Academic Senate, held on January 7, 2022, was called to order at 10 am by Senate President Christy Porucznik. The meeting was held on the Zoom online meeting platform and had been announced via Senate-wide email on January 6, 2022. The Senate Parliamentarian confirmed that enough voting Senators were in attendance to form a quorum.
Present: Michael Abrahamson, Serena Aeschilman, Gloria Aquino, Erin Beeghly, Melissa Bobick, David Bowling, Simon Brewer, Jonathan Brogaard, Kenneth Bromberg, Jen Brown, Jessica Brown, Richard Brown, Luca Brunelli, Juliet Carlisle, Adrienne Cataxinos, Owen Chan, Thomas Cheatham, Sarah Creem-Regehr, Stuart Culver, Shanti Deemyad, Nadja Durbach, Stacy Firth, Annette Fleckenstein, Sydney Gilliand, Ganesh Gopalakrishnan, Amos Guiora, Eric Handman, Sara Hart, Bill Hesterly, Anna Hodgson, John Hollerbach, Harriet Hopf, Howard Horwitz, Alexander Hyres, Luis Ibarra, Jeremiah Jaggers, Thunder Jalili, Jay Jordan, James Karner, R. James Keddington, Seth Keeton, Keith Koper, Audrey Laney, Titus Larrieu, Mike Lewis, Kerry Lohmeier, Jack Longino, Gabriel Lozada, Robin Marcus, Frank McAlpin, Staci McIntosh, Nancy McLaughlin, Rajesh Menon, Eugene Mishchenko, Ed Muñoz, Anna Neatrour, Adrian Palmer, Marcel Paret, Robert Parker, Susie Porter, Tom Quinn, Emi Radetich, Kevin Rathunde, Sean Redmond, Alessandro Rigolon, Ofer Rog, Paul Shami, Xiaoming Sheng, Doug Shumway, Roger Silvers, Robert Smith, Tim Smith, Brian Snapp, Taylor Sparks, Ryan Steele, Dave Symons, Jessica Van Der Volgen, Seetha Veeraghanta, Crystal Wallenius, Melodie Weller, Peter West, Jaclyn Winter, Jaehee Yi, Brandon Zielinski
Ex Officio: Randy Dryer, Lisa Hutton, Jane Laird, Paul Mogren, Allyson Mower, Christina Porucznik, Sarah Projansky, Martell Teasley, Sonia Salari, Jo Scofield
Senate President Christy Porucznik explained that, per Policy 6-002.III.F.2.a The Academic Senate and Senate Committees: Structure, Functions, Procedures, special meetings for the Senate can be held at the written request of five members of the Senate. A request was made for this Senate Special Meeting to discuss and generate a Senate Resolution asking for administration action addressing safety in the classroom during the current COVID 19 surge.
Senator David Bowling offered a motion to discuss and approve a Senate Resolution that would express serious concern about the dire situation associated with the COVID-19 surge and request specific actions and allowances from university administration to address this concern. The motion was seconded by Randy Dryer. David offered a first draft resolution as a starting point for discussion, which had been circulated and posted to BoardDocs.
Guest Kimberly Shoaf, Professor in the Division of Public Health, offered background on the current surge, noting that the rate cases on campus was growing exponentially. Her report included these statistics for comparison:
Through January 2, the campus averaged fewer than 10 cases per day.
January 3: 71 cases
January 4: 50 cases
January 5: 108 cases
January 6: 118 cases
SVP Martell Teasley reported that President Randall and university administration have been continually and actively conferring with members of the Utah legislature to find out what latitude is available under current Utah laws about mask mandates and offering classes online under the required 75% in-person restrictions They have determined that there is no flexibility with the legislature. Instructors cannot have unilateral ability to take a class online, so the current approach is to work closely with each dean to ensure faculty and staff are safe under the scope of rules that are in place. He also assured the Senate that administration continues to try to make headway with the legislature; just because they heard “no” does not mean they have stopped their efforts. Dean Richard Brown echoed this and added that some colleges and their faculty do not want to offer all classes online, so he argued against mandating that across the University. Several Senators agreed with that point.
Other Senators, both faculty and student, preferred to ask for more protections than currently offered, some stating that it did not make sense to first wait until people in the classroom get sick before being able to pull the class to online. ASUU Senator Shumway summarized by saying that he and fellow students felt that the university is asking students to come get sick and then request an accommodation. It is also harder for instructors to do this kind of fast pivot in cases that qualify for moving online, after being offered in-person, instead of having an upfront plan. Others noted that they did not want to put themselves in danger too. For instance, having young children at home who are not eligible for vaccinations magnifies the risk of getting COVID. Another issue raised was the lack of clarity for options for faculty and students. Others offered that it is important to do the right and ethical thing.
Senate President Porucznik shared an annotated Resolution showing the additions and revisions that were requested by Senators. Randy Dryer moved to call the question and was seconded by David Bowling. The motion to cease debate passed with 53 Senators for and 10 against. The original makers of the first motion, David Bowling and Randy Dryer, notified the Senate that they accepted the revised Resolution language as posted as a friendly amendment. The motion to discuss and approve a Senate Resolution, as revised, passed with 60 Senators for and 10 against. The approved version of the Resolution is included in Appendix A.
Senator Stacy Firth said she was uncomfortable with the first sentence of Resolution point #2 and asked to reopen the debate. The motion to reopen debate was not approved, with 22 for and 35 opposed.
Christy Porucznik recommended that participants note the list of resources that had been posted by AVP Sarah Projansky and attend the University Town Hall beginning at noon. Note: The final Resolution and the resource list were posted on BoardDocs.
Meeting adjourned at 11:28 am
Resolution approved at the January 7, 2022, emergency meeting
We, the Academic Senate of the University of Utah, express grave concern about the dire situation associated with COVID-19 in our community. COVID-19 cases in Utah have never been higher, our hospitals are overwhelmed, and Utah citizens are dying. Emergency health care is compromised for everyone. Public health experts predict that this situation will worsen in coming weeks.
As one of the largest institutions in the State of Utah, the University of Utah is likely to be a major source of spread of this sometimes fatal and very infectious disease. This is no time for large gatherings of people and bringing tens of thousands of people to campus next week will likely worsen the already critical situation even further.
We have the opportunity to minimize the significant damage that will occur to the health of the citizens of Utah by making modest changes in the way we conduct normal University function in the next several weeks. We respectfully ask that University leadership address this unprecedented situation immediately, so that the health and well-being of all can be maintained.
Specifically, we call on the Administration to:
1) Allow flexibility for instructors to teach remotely at their discretion. This would be similar to existing policy for temporary work accommodations that cannot reasonably be implemented at this late date.
2) Require masks for everyone indoors as long as community transmission remains at a high level. Statistically, it is likely that many in our community have been recently exposed to COVID-19 and requiring masks for everyone indoors will help reduce spread in the community.
3) Encourage and support remote work for all who are able to work remotely.
4) Allow instructors to elect to teach online temporarily if they deem it appropriate and necessary from a pedagogical perspective given that the likelihood of having to switch to a hybrid teaching model as students quarantine or isolate is very high.
5) Allow flexibility for students and instructors to attend remotely, and in addition students and instructors should not be penalized in any way due to their lack of attendance if they are needing to quarantine or isolate.