By Philip L. Glick
University at Buffalo President Satish Tripathi’s letter to the UB community about plans to reopen was thin on details and made the caveat that all plans were subject to the approval of SUNY and the governor.
In the article, UB Provost A. Scott Weber suggests that “We’re not going to look the same. Of paramount importance is protecting the health and safety of the entire community.” But the devil is in the details.
UUP (United University Professions) represents more than 4,300 professional staff and faculty employed by UB, a majority of UB employees. I would like to share some of the details of UUP’s guiding principles for the reopening of UB, prioritizing the health and safety of our entire UB community.
Our priorities include:
Maximize social distancing: The most effective way of accomplishing that is to continue to allow all non-essential employees to work from home to the greatest extent possible. Classrooms, work areas and student areas all need to be reengineered.
Test, trace, isolate: All employees and students should receive diagnostic tests immediately prior to returning to campus. Only employees and students who test negative should be brought back. Plans for conducting on-campus contact tracing while rapidly identifying co-workers and students who have had contact with a Covid-19 positive individual should be developed.
Daily self-screening: Employees and students working/studying on campus should self-screen for Covid-19 symptoms daily, not report to campus or leave campus as soon as symptoms appear.
Personal protective equipment: PPE should be supplied to all employees and students, including face coverings and gloves.
Hygiene: Hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes should be readily available and accessible to all employees and students.
Environmental issues: Physical modifications of campus areas to enhance social distancing, adjustment of HVAC systems to improve air quality, stepped up cleaning of all campus areas, and developing procedures to limit access to buildings, offices and work areas.
UB’s reopening plans have been submitted to SUNY and to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. These plans were created without any union leaders involved. We hope when the approved plan for reopening is returned, that UB’s administration will reach out to union leaders, in the true spirit of true shared governance, and request our help and support.
Our chapter has a Health and Safety Committee comprising international medical experts who will review UB’s plan and offer suggestions. As educators, we are in the testing business. The plan to reopen UB is a test we cannot afford to fail.