UofL Union Claims A Victory As College 'Clarifies' Its Remote Work Policy

This article was originally published in LEO Weekly on January 26th, 2022. 

As the UofL Chapter of United Campus Workers of Kentucky and others have continued to press on increasing COVID safety protocols on campus, the university has “clarified” and “updated” its policies and guidelines for online instruction, remote work and temporary leave for faculty and staff. 

After the United Campus Workers of Kentucky circulated a petition and then staged a protest at a UofL Board Of Trustees meeting — calling for more remote work flexibility for instructors and other employees, among other things — the university sent out an email on Tuesday, addressing work-from-home options.  

In that email, the university said that faculty and staff “have flexible instruction and work options when following COVID-19 protocols. Faculty may utilize their continuity of instruction plans (such as temporarily shifting to online instruction) and staff can utilize remote work options as agreed upon with their supervisor.”

The university said in the email that this is meant to be a short term solution and that they “do not suggest that faculty may switch modes of course delivery for the entire semester.”

Contact and appeal options were included if a member of the faculty or staff feels like their department’s chair or direct supervisor is not granting them the flexibility they feel they need.

The email also said that the Emergency Temporary Leave Guidelines have been updated to  “reflect current circumstances.”

On Jan. 10, the Courier Journal reported that the university told department chairs that there was “no wiggle room” for in-person classes to be moved online, and “violations may result in discipline,” angering students, faculty and staff. Two days later, the CJ reported that the department of Arts & Sciences had backed off of the “no wiggle room” standpoint, allowing chairs to have some flexibility, but referring to the situation as a “clarification” instead of a policy change.  

The United Campus Workers created the Keep all Cardinals Safe! petition calls for instructors to be able to move their classes online, hazard pay for frontline staff, the availability of more high-quality masks, increased testing rules and more transparency. It currently has more than 1,700 signatures. 

Last Thursday, a group of about 30 people with United Campus Workers of Kentucky gathered outside of Grawemeyer Hall, with several people holding signs and giving speeches. 

Members of the group eventually went inside Grawemeyer, joining a UofL Board of Trustees meeting. One member was allowed to speak at the meeting. After the group’s requests were voiced, Board of Trustees member Mary Nixon said that the “administration doesn’t take these concerns lightly.”

While the university email mentions discussions with faculty and staff senate leadership, the United Campus Workers are not mentioned in the email. 

The group is celebrating the email as a victory though, claiming their actions are working in a statement: “Our campaign for COVID safety is winning because we are acting and organizing together. Each of us signed and shared this petition, planned and supported phone banks, distributed fliers around campus, and stood outside Grawemeyer Hall. Without the meetings to carefully plan next steps and word each statement, we would not have been prepared for any of these direct actions.”

The statement also said that they’ll continue to work toward their other requests. 

“We can’t meet these needs unless we continue to fight together.”