Today I testified about the importance of the health and safety of our students, our members and our communities. Over the last few weeks, SUNY’s campuses have individually released their reopening plans. UUP does not oppose reopening our campuses. On the contrary, UUP published a set of reopening principles June 2, with the hopes that the recommendations would be included in SUNY’s plans. Unfortunately, UUP has not been included to the extent necessary, such that our concerns were heeded.
Nonetheless, our members have been working constructively at their individual campuses and collectively through our statewide efforts to welcome back students safely and responsibly in just a few weeks. Unfortunately, SUNY’s plans do not go far enough to protect the health of our campus communities. They have abandoned the consistent messaging of Gov. Cuomo and Dr. Zucker that we have heard for five months. To safely reopen campuses, to insure that our communities do not become new hotspots in the pandemic, we need four basic systems in place: baseline and surveillance testing, contact tracing, mask-wearing and social distancing, and telecommuting.
We have made our position clear, if they cannot find the resources to allow for a safe SUNY reopening – they cannot compromise our health and safety instead. The level of risk that the state is willing to take should not be determined by the cost of providing the protections necessary. As I testified today, well-endowed private universities are taking all these steps to protect their students, faculty and staff. Why are we treated as second-class educators and students? We deserve the same levels of protection as those at the wealthiest institutions of higher education! The resources must be found, must be committed to our collective safety, and then we can continue to provide the world-class education we have always provided.
Join with me and your colleagues from across the state as we build power and fight for what is right. The time is now to take action, and here is how:
1. Send a letter demanding a safe reopening of SUNY! Send an email to your state legislators to share the need for a safe reopening of SUNY.
a. Send a letter to Governor Cuomo here.
b. Send a letter to your state legislators here.
3. Join us in the social media call for a safe reopening of SUNY. Use our social media toolkit, which includes graphics and sample posts as starting points to invite your social media network to join our fight.
4. Join your colleagues, students, community groups, and legislators, Aug. 5 at 12PM, on a Virtual Rally for a Safe SUNY Reopening. We are fighting to protect our communities. To learn more about how you can be part of this interactive event visit the campaign page here.
These actions will be followed by regional and chapter rallies over the next few weeks. Stay in touch with your UUP chapter leadership to help plan and take part in any local actions. Your voice makes the difference.
Fred Kowal — UUP President