Faculty members across the province who are being required to return to in-person teaching are expressing grave concerns about the health and safety conditions they are facing when they do so, particularly in light of the transmissibility of the Omicron variant. The York Administration has scheduled a phased-in return to in-person teaching starting on Monday, Jan. 31. We share the concerns of our colleagues and welcome the timely nature of the recent statement by the Ontario Confederation of Faculty Associations (OCUFA) sent to members on YUFA-M last Friday (Jan. 28). This important statement can also be read on our website, here.
In comments cited by the Toronto Star in a Sunday (Jan. 30) article, "Ontario university students feel forced to return to campus," York students said they had informed our Administration that they "don't feel safe going to class" and have concerns about finding short-term housing. Members of the faculty of X University’s School of Occupational and Public Health have signed an open letter stating that neither faculty nor students feel comfortable returning to in-person classes, while the University of Toronto has delayed the return to in person teaching until the end of February.
YUFA has been hearing many concerns from our members since York announced its return-to-in-person teaching plans. To cite two issues that are particularly concerning, a hortative (non-binding) motion was passed at York Senate on Jan. 28 regarding supplying N (or KN) 95 masks to everyone on campus. Opposed by a senior York Administrator, this motion passed with a majority of over 70%. Why would York ignore the recommendations of its Engineering colleagues? Trained in risk assessment, they have called for a number of safety resources to be provided for our members in order to allow for a safe return to in-person teaching: https://www.yorku.ca/professor/drsmith/2022/01/07/update-to-the-four-motions-to-protect-staff-students-and-faculty/
YUFA urges the Administration to adopt the health and safety measures recommended by our Engineering colleagues; to adhere to the MOS (Memorandum of Settlement) of December 14 accepting greater flexibility in health, disability, and family status accommodations for the balance of the winter term; and to respect a broader range of choices from instructors and students. The refusal to do so is contributing to a crisis of confidence in the York Administration at a critical juncture.