February 2022 Advocate: AFT continues organizing for safer campuses

Health & safety

AFT campus safety committee reps continue organizing for safer campuses

By Jessica Silver-Sharp, AFT 1493 Secretary and Skyline College Health, Safety & Emergency Preparedness Committee (HSEPC) Rep.

Our colleges held their first health and safety committee meetings of the semester by Zoom during January and February with many faculty members in attendance.

At each meeting, Covid Health Officer Ray Hernandez reported that Covid testing sites on each campus would be in place toward the end of February – a provision originally promised for the beginning of the Spring semester – and that home test kits for students and faculty that the Chancellor assured the Board of Trustees on January 11th would be available for Spring reopening, would arrive soon. Hernandez also noted that Virus Geeks had pulled out as our District’s contracted testing vendor, that this was a Chancellor’s office initiative that had failed, and that agreements with new vendors were in the works.

90 positive Covid cases reported by the District in January

While 90 positive covid cases have been reported by the District for the month of January, at none of these meetings was the District’s positive case count or Covid Exposure Report mentioned by leadership. As of February 7, the count for January stands at 52 cases at CSM, 29 cases at Skyline, and only 7 cases at Cañada. Faculty consider this to be an undercount as students continue to say they are unsure of how to report cases and receive scant email messaging about any health and safety provisions. At Skyline’s February 3 Health, Safety & Emergency Preparedness Committee (HSEPC) meeting, Hernandez assured attendees that positive cases were trending downward; in response, AFT faculty reps posted a link to New York Times Covid tracking showing that cases in San Mateo County remained “extremely high” with hospitalizations and deaths up significantly. Hernandez replied he would “take a look at that.”

Safety Committee reports

At the College of San Mateo Safety Committee’s January 27th meeting, whose membership includes only three faculty members, and with reported cases almost double Skyline’s case count, AFT’s rep. David Lau debated the adequacy of the number of KN95 masks to be made available and spoke out strongly about faculty’s concerns regarding other promised provisions.

At Skyline’s February 3 HSEPC meeting, AFT reps. Lori Slicton and Jessica Silver-Sharp responded to the District Safety Committee’s December 6th rejection (see meeting minutes item 48.1) of their approved recommendations for better health and safety features, like air purifiers on demand and up-to-date Covid reporting procedures, pointing out that lagging Covid reporting practices were out of compliance with AFT’s Spring MOU. AFT recommended further actions, detailed here. The meeting was contentious and unproductive, reflective of that campus’s continuing challenges to improve its campus climate and culture. Anticipating this, AFT’s President, Co-Vice President and Executive Secretary were all in attendance.

None of the health and safety committee meeting minutes or meeting recordings were available at the time of this writing, with Skyline committee’s website two months out of date. None of these participatory governance committees follow Robert’s Rules.

Cañada College’s Safety Committee meeting was held January 20th and will meet again February 17. A report from those meetings will be included in the next issue of the Advocate.

Faculty Participation Remains Essential

AFT continues 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. Additionally, the next round of campus safety committee meetings are scheduled:

  • Cañada College: February 17, 2:30-4:00pm. Zoom link
  • College of San Mateo: February 24, 2-3:30pm: Zoom link
  • Skyline College:  March 3, 12:45-2:05pm. Zoom link

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

  • Cañada College: Michael Hoffman, Lorraine Barrales-Ramirez
  • College of San Mateo: David Lau
  • Skyline College: Lori Slicton, Jessica Silver-Sharp

Anyone with questions or concerns should please contact your AFT Safety Committee reps or AFT Executive Secretary Marianne Kaletzky (kaletzky@aft1493.org)