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Helen Gordon: AAUP’s Response and Recommendations

September 16, 2021 / PSU-AAUP

As some of you may know, due to staffing shortages, Helen Gordon Child Development Center (HGCDC) cut their hours from 7:30 to 5:30 to just 8 to 1. Parents were told of this radical change in their childcare situation on Thursday 9:30 pm, September 9, just five days before the fall opening of HGCDC. The radically reduced hours affects over 200 children whose parents are employees and students of PSU. PSU-AAUP was alarmed to hear of this and believe this may affect between 70 and 90 of our members. The reduced hours have created a significant unanticipated burden greatly impacting our members' ability to work, teach, attend meetings, and generally be available for work after 1 pm right as people are returning to working on campus and classes starting. (And after an already uniquely challenging year for our caregiving members!!) 

PSU-AAUP immediately contacted PSU administration about the situation and submitted a proposal that requested fair and just remedies. This included allowing Instructional Faculty to switch their classes to remote or reschedule it to a different time. If this was not possible, the administration would replace the member with another instructor. If another instructor is not available to immediately take the class, the class will be canceled, and the member will be assigned other work. Affected members would be permitted to attend meetings remotely. Academic Professionals and other non-instructional members should be granted additional flexible schedules and remote work options. 
While PSU Administration has recognized the difficulty of the situation and is taking some strides to remedy the staffing problem at Helen Gordon, they have not accepted any of our proposed remedies. At this time, it is our opinion as your union that the best option for our members affected by the reduced availability of childcare is to try to take sick leave, COVID leave, or Disability Sick leave. We need to be mindful, however, that the closure of a daycare center that is not ordered by a public health official is not a qualifying condition for the use of sick leave and administration could disallow the use of sick leave for that use and convert that time, instead, to personal leave without pay. 

Affected members could act proactively now, today, and request an FTE reduction to cover the loss of the ability to work in the afternoon. We recognize that this would likely result in administration cancelling those afternoon classes, but at this point, without permission to move the classes to another time, switch modalities to remote immediately, it is too late for anyone to find replacement instructors and we see no alternatives. This is not an option many will feel comfortable doing, but as of now, it's our best option unless PSU administration offers more in the coming days. Affected members should contact their supervisors if they have not already done so and request assistance in managing HGCDC’s reduced hours. Academic Professionals and other non-instructional members could request additional flexible schedules and remote work options. If you have questions or concerns with your leave, contact HR. As always, PSU-AAUP is here to help.

Of course the immediate need to address this current situation at HGCDC takes precedence, it also highlights the long, frustrating fight PSU-AAUP has engaged in to address equity, work-life balance, and building a family-friendly workplace. PSU already lacks enough quality affordable childcare options on campus. We have asked for the University to remedy this. Additionally, during our last round of bargaining, Administration rejected our proposals to create real paid leave before the new state law goes into effect in September of 2023 and our proposal to subsidize childcare. PSU Administration prides themselves on being called an innovative university, but when it comes to creating a workplace for working families, particularly as it relates to child care, PSU is currently unimaginative. PSU-AAUP is especially concerned because we know that women and BIPOC members are often taking on the extra burden of caregiving, negatively impacting their promotional opportunities, milestone reviews, tenure files, pay advancements, etc. HGCDC reduced hours will only exacerbate this, further furthering the gender and race based equity gaps on campus.  

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