Are We All in this Together?

March 25, 2020 / Jose Padin

Faculty — full-time and part-time — academic professionals and graduate employees have been working tirelessly over the last two weeks to bring Winter term to a graceful completion, and to make sure there is a Spring term for our students.

PSU-AAUP has been working together with the other academic unions at PSU — PSUFA (part-time faculty) and GEU (graduate employees). All of us have been conscientious and honorable partners during this trying period. PSU-AAUP and our sister academic unions have conducted ourselves as partners and stakeholders who believe we are all in this together for the greater good of our community.

          Please visit and bookmark this page with COVID-19 crisis resources, which we are constantly updating with your input. There you will also find portals to share input on community relief resourcesresources for remote work, and forms to request help, or volunteer help with remote teaching.

          If you have concerns about the impact of the crisis on your work, let us know at COVID-19 Help.

We have met with the administration on a daily basis to relay problems from the field, and thrown ourselves fully into joint problem-solving to meet our students’ needs: emotional, technological, financial, and pedagogical. We have also tackled multiple issues affecting you: 

  • Course evaluations — waived.
  • Telework for APs — authorized with minimal red tape.
  • Tenure clocks — stopped, unless you don’t want that. 
  • Computers — you can take office computers home. 
  • Equipment for faculty, staff, and student telework — our daily feedback on bottlenecks informs administration’s responses.
  • Overwork — don’t do it; modulate your expectations, and use the first two weeks of the term, if you need to, as a soft on-ramp to the course. 
  • Family and health — take care of those first. 

And the list goes on. We are a much better university because of our union voices.

The latest COVID-19 campus crisis we are tackling is a social crisis: 

Spring term job security for the most vulnerable (often also, the lowest paid) members of our academic community: “adjunct” (part-time) faculty, graduate students who are research assistants, teaching assistants, and instructors of record, and researchers on soft money. Many of these members of our community, and their families, are living through a moment of extreme anxiety right now, not knowing if they will have an income to get through the next few months.

Last week we started to get news of course cancellations that would leave “adjunct” faculty without work, and similar concerns about graduate student employees. 

In response, PSU-AAUP, PSUFA, and GEU sent a letter to Interim President Percy last Friday, March 20, requesting two urgent signs of leadership in the midst of this crisis:

  1. Make a commitment to no layoffs of adjunct faculty, researchers on soft money, or graduate employees during Spring term.
  2. Relax the enrollment criteria to make sure courses with lower-than-usual enrollment stay open for our students.

The question we put before the President and the PSU Administration is, plainly: Are we all in this together? PSU-AAUP believes we are, and that comes with a responsibility to support our vulnerable colleagues.

President Percy responded to us later the same day, asking for additional time to conduct a survey of the situation across departments, in order to assess the magnitude of the potential problem impacting “adjunct” faculty and graduate employees. We are expecting a response from Interim President Percy today or tomorrow.

We are hoping for a resolute and courageous response from Interim President Percy. No cuts to faculty, researchers, academic professionals, and graduate employees this Spring term.

(Note: The Interim President has already expressed agreement with our request for great flexibility regarding enrollment minima to keep courses open. We’ve asked PSU to be more specific, and are also awaiting for a response).

Warm regards, 

José A. Padín
Portland State University Chapter
American Association of University Professors

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