Alfred Chapter Q&A — 4/12/2020
We have been asked a number of questions about interaction between Alfred State College Administration with the Alfred Chapter of United University Professions and Alfred State College Faculty Senate.
A campus COVID-19 Incident Command System was organized and met on March 2 to discuss issues related to Alfred State’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The UUP Chapter President was invited as a guest to these meetings. The Alfred State Faculty Senate Chair already had a seat at President’s Council. It is incumbent upon us to say that in our opinion, Alfred State College administration has gone above and beyond expectation in their response to the pandemic. No one could have anticipated the unprecedented problems that arose because of the pandemic, and in communication with UUP and University Faculty Senate colleagues at other campuses we must report that in our estimation Alfred State College Administration has responded to the crisis in a way superior to that of many other campuses. We do however appreciate that members have concerns and have received the list of questions below concerning campus response to the pandemic.
To begin, if you have any questions or concerns about the UUP/Faculty Senate response to the COVID-19 pandemic, you may address them to UUP Chapter President Joe Petrick, Faculty Senate Chair Earl Packard, Alfred UUP Chapter Vice-President for Academics Linda Panter, Alfred UUP Chapter Vice-President for Professionals Bill Schultze, or any of the other officers of the Alfred Chapter UUP or Alfred State College Faculty Senate.
Below is a number of questions that we have received, along with responses to the questions.
– While it was right to go online why weren’t the faculty able to decide which method to use? Not only were the faculty told the courses had to go synchronously but also told which platform had to be used. Other schools gave their faculty much more freedom to decide which method to use.
Alfred State College policy has been to use Blackboard exclusively. BB was reported to SUNY as the campus LMS since online programs were originally taught at ASC. BB is supported by Technology Services and the Center for Online Learning, and accessibility issues have been been worked through to ensure ADA compliance. Use of BB has long been required in online courses at ASC, and has not arisen because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Classes that have been conducted asynchronously prior to the pandemic continue to be taught asynchronously. Classes that were scheduled to meet at specific times are being conducted at those times in order to continue to give students structured schedules. We see no problem with teaching synchronously online, and we understand the rationale of requiring scheduled classes to continuing to be taught on schedule.
– Has the last day of obligation changed? Isn’t that contractual? Doesn’t that mean final grades and graduation reports are due after the last day of obligation? With the change of final exams dates it makes sense that these dates also be changed but will there be compensation for faculty who have to grade after that Friday?
The last day of obligation has not changed. Recall that there was a delay in the course schedule because of the extension of spring break, and the missing week should be a means of making up the lost week. Final grades and graduation reports of Alfred faculty can be finished by May 15. As we understand it, the two-day extension was made to accommodate Wellsville programs and should not impact Alfred programs, as stated by Provost Poppo to department chairs in the AACT meeting of April 7.
– Are these changes in regulations and dictation of how to teach classes clearly stated as one-time emergency situations and won’t be able to be used against as “past practices”?
There are no permanent changes to regulations in how classes are taught. We have witnessed a concern by administration in Faculty Senate and Dean’s Council that academic regulations be followed. For example, the issue of satisfactory/unsatisfactory (formerly pass/fail) was discussed on a number of occasions, including a discussion with an ad hoc group of faculty (including UUP and Faculty Senate representatives), and with the department chairs. The issue was subsequently discussed by the Faculty Senate Academic Affairs Committee in advance of the announcement to students.
– Was there any consultation with Senate and UUP regarding the extra week of classes (a number of people had already built in the extra week of classes through video lectures or other things and now aren’t sure what they are going to do the last week)? If the hours have been met through these other methods, do they have to meet that last week?
We have to ask, in what way is there an extra week of classes? There was an extra week of spring break, and as a consequence classes were delayed. No extra classes were required of faculty; instead there was an abridgement of post-finals professional development week. Did faculty build in additional seat time during their scheduled classes? Did faculty require asynchronous instruction in addition to the synchronous classes? If so, was any of this discussed at department meetings?
– Why do I have to record my classes? Isn’t this an infringement of my intellectual property rights?
Faculty were asked to record their classes because there was a concern that some students would not be able to attend synchronous online classes owing to factors beyond their control, not least of which was that they might obtain employment in positions becoming available due to the pandemic, such as food delivery. The College has no interest in violating anyone’s intellectual property rights, which in any event are protected by the SUNY Policies of the Board of Trustees and the UUP Agreement with New York State (i.e. the union contract).
– Are there going to be layoffs or retention happening this summer? If so, how will it be determined who is going to affected?
As may be imagined, the administration is concerned, as school administrators everywhere are concerned, about what will happen in the fall due to COVID-19. That said, employers are trying to estimate how to conduct current and future hiring. At this point no one — not POTUS, the Center for Disease Control, state and local health departments, the NY governor, or any college president — has any real idea of how K-12 or college instruction will take place in the fall. It is the case however that instruction will take place in the fall. Please recall that there are contractual job security protections, and that administration is very aware of their responsibilities vis-a-vis the union contract.
– Is there any discussion of compensation for all the extra work the change in teaching has created?
Compensation for changing delivery of courses is being discussed in Labor-Management meetings between statewide UUP and the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations, and we currently have no additional information about those negotiations.
Other items that are being discussed at Labor-Management meetings at the statewide level include:
— Delaying spring semester review processes for tenure, reappointment, promotion
— Security provisions if converting to electronic portfolios
— Tenure clock extensions/ Reappointment Delays for 2020/2021 academic year
— Use of Student Evaluations for spring semester
— Immediate remote teaching issues
— Intellectual Property
— Security of course materials on delivery platforms
— Campus plans for colleagues covering courses for those who may become ill with COVID-19
— Paying for equipment/internet access, etc. for remote teaching
— Possible compensation for Adjuncts converting to remote delivery/Log for additional work hours
— Teacher Ed Curriculum & Certification Issues/Impact on employment for student teacher supervisors in the field
— Essential employee/work from home issues
— Summer session online classes
— Impacts on Joint Labor-Management grants, e.g., Individual Developement Awardss, etc.
— Benefits issues
— Faculty workload from possible increases in student course Incompletes; Could this qualify for “Extra Service” pay?
Both the Alfred Chapter of United University Professions and Alfred State Faculty Senate have been in communication with Alfred State College Administration and want to assure you that there has been cooperation and communication during the pandemic crisis. Once again, if there are any questions about these or other issues, by all means reach out to any of the respondents mentioned above.
As before, please point to https://uupinfo.org/ for UUP responses to COVID-19.