December 2021 Advocate: AFT works for a safe Spring return

Faculty Health & Safety

AFT continues to work for a safe Spring return

AFT representatives (left to right) David Lau, Lori Slicton, Michael Hoffman and Jenna French spoke about faculty safety needs at the November 10 Board of Trustees meeting.

As the Spring term quickly approaches, your AFT representatives have stepped up their advocacy work for a safe return to campus for all. Your participation remains as important as ever! In this article you’ll find a summary of recent work and learn ways to stay involved.

On November 10, at AFT’s membership meeting, faculty formed discussion groups by campus to prioritize the more than 40 health and safety related concerns submitted anonymously to AFT that week, with the result that each campus AFT safety representative was able to bring those to their respective campus safety meetings during November in the form of recommendations.

Later that evening, AFT’s health and safety committee representatives David Lau, Lori Slicton and Michael Hoffman spoke out strongly about faculty’s concerns at the Board of Trustees meeting, presenting recommendations our members have brought to us. [Click here to watch Michael, David and Lori’s presentations.] Some described how these administrator-heavy committees have prevented concrete recommendations from being conveyed to the District Safety Committee, whose meetings remain closed to faculty and the public without valid justification.

Concerns about the need for universal masking to continue indoors, the lack of enforcement of District safety mandates or any physical monitoring of campus public spaces, lack of adequate scheduled committee time to hear faculty’s concerns and more, were reiterated in a letter to all Board members following the meeting. Cañada College Learning Disability Specialist/DRC Counselor Jenna French also spoke [click here to watch Jenna’s presentation], asking the Board to encourage the administration to settle an MOU on Spring 2022 Covid working conditions as soon as possible to give faculty assurances regarding their working conditions for the upcoming semester. While MOU negotiations are now under way, District negotiators have not yet agreed to any of AFT’s proposals regarding masking, classroom capacity reduction, or providing portable air filters for workspaces without adequate ventilation.

Campus Health and Safety Committees

Cañada College
The Safety Committee at Cañada College held two meetings in November at the request of faculty including AFT reps Michael Hoffman and Lorraine Barrales-Ramirez. On November 9th the meeting focused on faculty proposals related to reopening safely in the context of COVID. Votes taken on the proposals were over whether or not to officially recommend certain safety measure to the District Safety Committee. Unfortunately, the votes were taken before the committee’s by-laws were updated, so with most administrators on the committee abstaining, only two of the ten proposals were approved. At the November 19th meeting, the Safety Committee reviewed draft by-laws which clarified the reporting structure and membership of the committee. The Cañada Safety Committee is now designated to make recommendations to both the college Planning and  Budget Council and the District Safety Committee. Faculty representation now includes two AFT appointees and three Academic Senate Appointees, one of whom is a part-time instructor.

At CSM’s recent Safety Committee meeting on November 19, AFT reps Jesenia Diaz and David Lau were present and able to advocate for faculty concerns about reopening safely. They raised questions and spelled out concerns that AFT had recently received from faculty. They discussed making a quick reference page to explain what’s happening with sanitizing rooms and the availability of masks. Jesenia spoke about the close quarters that counselors work in with students. District officials said they were willing to address concerns and explore plexiglass additions to office spaces and desks. The Committee also discussed using N95 masks and face shields, both of which are provided by the district. Leadership appeared open to taking some actions to address these concerns and others that may arise.

Skyline College
At Skyline College’s most recent Heath, Safety and Emergency Procedures Committee (HSEPC) on November 15, newly appointed committee chairman VPAS Joe Morello made time for AFT’s representatives to recommend changes to the District’s health and safety protocols, reflecting the Committee’s charge as laid out in AFT’s contract. These recommendations have been revised by faculty and will be discussed and presented for a HSEPC committee vote on December 2.  We encourage Skyline faculty to attend the committee meeting. (Please see meeting details below).

Skyline College Academic Senate and President’s “Return to Work” briefing
AFT members also contributed to an October Academic Senate session where questions for President Moreno were gathered in advance to be answered at her November 19 “Return to Work” briefing, with the result that some answers faculty had been anticipating were posted or answered during the session. While too many responses indicated that policies and procedures were still being formulated, and while the chat was disabled and faculty could not see each other or engage in discussion, in this fourth and final briefing, administrators were more forthcoming than previously about their unfinished work.

Throughout the Fall, AFT has continued to convey information to Covid Safety Officer Ray Hernandez about improvements needed to the District’s Return to Work webpages, as well as to District Human Resources about erroneous and out of date information regarding faculty leave provisions.

The Bottom Line 

While faculty have received answers to more questions than previously and seen a positive change in the tone of many health and safety conversations with administrators and managers, our District has been unwilling to put into place the safeguards that have been implemented in other nearby colleges. These are policies that the majority of students and faculty want and deserve. Enforcing the Board’s safety-related mandates, encouraging social distancing, committing to continue indoor masking if County orders are rescinded, reconsidering campus checkpoints, and reporting adequate details of current covid positive cases on an online dashboard, have been pushed aside or remain “in progress.”

While other colleges have for months offered vaccination incentives to students, trained groups of volunteers to help with monitoring, and much more, the message from our District remains that, given our County vaccination rates, meeting the minimum legal standards set forth by state and county regulations is good enough. Our administration seems to think that they can’t spend the extra funds to protect students and employees if not required to do so by law.

Faculty Participation Remains Essential

AFT is continuing to work for the health and safety of all faculty. Your participation can make a difference. If this information leaves you concerned, we hope you’ll contact your AFT reps and consider attending or speaking out at the final Board of Trustees meeting of the semester on December 15 during public comments. Additionally, the next round of campus safety committee meetings are scheduled:

  • Cañada College Health & Safety Committee:
    Next meeting: December 10, 1:00 – 2:30 pm
  • College of San Mateo Health & Safety Committee
    Next meeting: December 10, 2:00 – 3:30 pm
  • Skyline College Health, Safety and Emergency Procedures Committee (HSEPC)
    Next meeting: This Thursday, December 2, 12:45-2:05pm: Zoom link; Agenda.

As a reminder, your AFT representatives on these committees include the following:

Anyone with questions or concerns should please contact your AFT Safety Committee reps or AFT Executive Secretary Marianne Kaletzky.