A few hours ago, the administration announced it would be reimposing its new masking policy that bars us from requiring that students wear face coverings in learning spaces and eliminates any masking requirement in libraries. To say we’re disappointed is an understatement. Our unions proposed to give individual instructors the discretion to decide what is best in their classrooms for their health and safety and that of others, including their students and families. But Rutgers management has imposed its preferred policy without any negotiation—even as health experts warn that another COVID surge, driven by new variants, is threatening.
The administration’s behavior on this issue has been especially callous. At one hearing, a lawyer representing Rutgers insisted that the way to address concerns about health and safety was “social distancing”—not in the classroom, but social distancing from our families! Management thinks that any instructor who is concerned about exposing vulnerable family members to COVID should isolate from their loved ones for the rest of the semester!
Our union believes that we all have the right to protect our health and safety and that of our loved ones and students. We will keep pursuing legal action to achieve a reasonable masking policy. We know there are strong feelings on both sides of this question. That’s why we proposed that each of us should have the ability to make decisions about our classrooms and workspaces. The administration has decided that it won’t respect this basic right.
We will keep you updated about our legal efforts. In the meantime, the administration is obligated, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, to provide reasonable accommodations if you have concerns about your health and safety. This page on the Rutgers website describes how to request accommodations, and we will support you in continuing to require masking or moving your class online pending the outcome of your application. Although Rutgers’ accommodation process is not designed for those with concerns about the health of family members, we encourage you to submit an accommodation request if you have vulnerable people in your household.
Beyond this, we encourage any of you who want to require face coverings in your classroom to ask students to continue to mask.
Becky and Todd
Rebecca Givan, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Todd Wolfson, General Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
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