Temple faculty demand online classes

Temple University campus at North Broad Street in Philadelphia (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Temple University campus at North Broad Street in Philadelphia (Emma Lee/WHYY)

This story originally appeared on The Philadelphia Tribune.

Members of Temple University’s faculty and staff are demanding that classes be held remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Temple Association of University Professionals, which represents faculty, librarians and academic professionals in 13 schools, voted this week to issue a list of health and safety demands to Temple’s administration.

“A lot of people have done at a lot of hard work at Temple to try to prepare for in-person classes, but despite that effort, it’s the view of the membership of the TUAP that we do not believe that the conditions will be safe for in-person instruction,” TAUP President Steve Newman said during a press conference held Thursday afternoon.

“We are concerned about not just the lives and health of our members but also our students, other employees and the surrounding community. Temple is in a neighborhood that is majority African American and Latinx and the statistics on the vulnerability that folks from the groups face is really frightening and we think that needs to be kept in mind.”

Newman said any in-person instruction should be limited to what is required by law.

“We just believe that the safe course of action would be to have everybody teach online and that’s why we are demanding this, for the safety of our members, our students and the North Philadelphia community,” he continued.

Newman was joined by the union’s Health and Safety Committee who expressed concerns of possibly being exposed to the novel coronavirus on campus when classes start on Aug. 24.

The committee’s conditions for health and safety on campus address issues of personnel matters, facilities and logistics, testing and contact tracing. Some of the union’s demands include Temple rescinding its decision to guarantee students face-to-face classes; providing quality masks to students, faculty, staff and visitors; installing plexiglas barriers in all classrooms and requiring COVID-19 testing for all members of the Temple community.

In response to the union’s vote, a Temple spokesperson e-mailed a statement.

“Over the last few months, with the exception of TAUP leadership, Temple has had excellent cooperation with the leadership of other bargaining units at the university as we have worked through the challenges that COVID-19 presents,” the statement said.

“The university has made it clear that it will work with every faculty member and employee to make sure that they are working in a safe environment. We have made accommodations when needed, and will continue to do so.”

“There remains much work to be done, but with the help of our outstanding faculty and staff, we will ensure the safest and highest quality educational experience for our students,” the statement continued.

“Finally, should circumstances warrant, we are prepared to adjust our plans as needed to ensure that our students continue to make progress towards their degrees in a safe environment.”

Union leaders would not say what steps the union would take if its demands were not met.

“We want to make sure that Temple recognizes that the concerns that we’re bringing forward are very valid,” said Jenna Siegel, TAUP staff organizer.

“They’re very real and we are prepared to take actions that will be determined by the membership.”

Jeanne Shanker, an adjunct professor, questioned some of the decisions made by Temple’s administration, as they prepare to bring students back to campus. She questioned why plexiglas has not been installed in her classroom and why students are permitted to come on campus with inadequate face masks.

“How come they are allowing students to come in with any kind of face covering, no matter how inadequate, rather than distributing Temple logoed face shields, at least so we’ll know that everyone is wearing PPE that is going to protect each other,” Shanker said.

“These are not expensive things in relation to somebody getting ill — somebody losing their life.”

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