Following the announcement that classes at uOttawa will return to in-person learning at the end of the month, part-time professors say they are concerned about “the rush back" to campuses.
The Association of Part-Time Professors (APTPUO) said on Friday, January 21 that it denounces the “hasty decision and lack of leadership” of the president and vice-chancellor, Jacques Frémont, for his decision to have in-person classes resume as of January 31.
“While we all look forward to returning to our campus and our classrooms, the imposition of a return to in-person work is precipitous, putting the health of professors, teaching assistants and the student body at risk,” the association said in a statement. “Once again, it is the APTPUO members who will be sent to the front lines, as we teach more than 80 per cent of the classes in bimodal and in-person.”
Most of the professors have health concerns, the associated added, as well as have young children who are not vaccinated, or are caregivers for vulnerable people.
“Part-time professors are also the only group of employees without long-term disability insurance,” the group explained. “In the case of long-term COVID symptoms, the university offers no protection to our members.”
The association said it finds it ”deplorable” that the president’s message is vague about health and safety measures that will be taken to ensure a safe return to campus at the height of the outbreak.
“Furthermore, professors should have the freedom to decide whether to return to campus or not. We have adapted our courses to a virtual mode at the beginning of the fourth year and for some of us, a shift in the delivery mode would compromise the quality of teaching.”
Therefore, the association urges Frémont to do the following:
- Postpone the return to campus until the situation is safe;
- Let the professors determine for themselves how to deliver their courses;
- Ensure that the essential health and safety measures are in place that include physical distancing, free distribution of N95 masks, distribution of antigen tests, installation of Plexiglas more suited to the classroom environment, installation of CO2 detectors and HEPA filters in ventilation systems and transparent and proactive communications with the various occupational health and safety committees.
On Wednesday, both Carleton University and uOttawa announced that in-person classes will commence, however the start date for Carleton will be later on February 7.
In a statement released to media, Frémont said: “It is essential that students be able to resume their normal activities, for their well-being and personal growth, including a return to classrooms and campus buildings. It is also important that University staff once again be able to work together, right on campus. Our research mission must be pursued with renewed vigour.”
Both schools moved to remote learning following the holiday break due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, fuelled by the Omicron variant of concern.