Protecting Colorado Faculty Throughout the Pandemic.

A Statement by the Colorado Conference of the American Association of University Professors

As Colorados universities and colleges ponder the risks and rewards of opening their campuses this fall in the midst of the continuing pandemic, the prospect of renewing normal or even seminormal campus operations promises to place faculty squarely in the crosshairs of that risk. It does not require any stretch of the imagination to understand that our classrooms, labs, libraries, and cafeterias and other common gathering spaces are petri dishes for community spread of the CoVID19 virus

This reality poses numerous dilemmas for faculty, some medical, some situational, some legal. On the medical side it remains uncertain as to whether our Colorado campuses will be supplied with adequate testing, contact tracing, and professional protective gear (masks, gloves, sanitizer, etc.) essential to establishing a safer environment for faculty and students. Inasmuch as some faculty are known to be at higher risk of infection, will they have pedagogical options adequate to their circumstances

Legal questions abound. Are faculty teaching facetoface liable for enforcing social distancing guidelines? Will faculty be found negligent if a student can establish an infection connection to returned paper assignments, even if the faculty member or a teaching assistant handling the material was asymptomatic or unaware of their illness

The complexity of classroom situations arising from the pandemic is troubling. Can you have meaningful discussions while everyone in class is wearing a maskassuming they are? What happens if students refuse to wear masks? How are safety precautions to be enforced in the classroom? And will students even show up for classes taught in this unconventional fashion

With these factors in mind, the Colorado Conference of the American Association of University Professors, echoing and endorsing guidelines already issues by AAUPs national office, issues the following set of guidelines to protect faculty for the duration of this crisis

  • Respecting norms of shared governance long championed by the AAUP, it is imperative that faculty on each Colorado college campus play a leading role in determining rules and practices governing pedagogy at their institution in this time of pandemic, including matters affecting the heath and safety of faculty in the conduct of their pedagogical duties
  • Any resumption of facetoface, oncampus instruction without a widely available, effective vaccine for CoVID19 must be accompanied by social distancing, essential sanitary measures including protective gear deployed in the classroom and comprehensive regular testing of students and faculty throughout the instructional period.
  • Faculty must have the option of teaching remotely or oncampus throughout this time of pandemic so long as a reliable vaccine is unavailable. We note that Colorado Governor Jared Polisguidelines forbid employers from requiring that vulnerable and atrisk employees return to place of work as usual throughout the pandemic. We agree. But we would extend this protection to all faculty.
  • As administrations open their campuses to facetoface instruction, those faculty returning to normal inclass, inlaboratory, or tutorial instruction and advising must be granted greater authority to enforce safety and security disciplines in the classroom consistent with institutional policies and guidance. If such faculty believe they are at risk from classroom conditions they should have the option to revert to remote instruction.
  • Faculty teaching or conducting research involving instruction oncampus must be shielded by their university or college from torts claiming instructional negligence related to the communication and transmission of viral infection

Endorsed and promulgated by the Colorado Conference of the American Association of University Professors on May 10, 2020.

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