Professors in many campuses say their administrations have ignored their concerns about teaching safely this fall, with COVID-19 cases increasing again due to the Delta variant. But the professors of the University of Northern Illinois say that they will feel comfortable to return to the campus, thanks to an understanding reached this week between the Union of Holding Faculty and Trick and Administration.

A key arrangement in that agreement is a two-part trigger to switch to remote instruction: when or if the campus positivity rate for surveillance tests COVID-19 reaches 8 percent, any Instructor can choose to teach online. This differs from some other autumn remote policies of 2021, where they exist, since they generally involve starting the semester online and continue in that way for a defined period of time (think of the University of Texas at the three-week remote start of San Antonio).

Kerry Ferris, professor of sociology in the north of Illinois and president of the Union of Faculty, said that she and colleagues pushed a "hyperlocal" metric to go remote, unlike a set of criteria that They felt more arbitrary or distant. And they were established in the 8 percent score because that is the warning threshold by which the Illinois Department of Public Health supervises the regions throughout the State.

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    "These are the cases and that is the level of transmission that will affect us," Ferris said. "What is happening elsewhere in the state does not necessarily affect us."

    How is an 8 percent positivity rate see? Ferris said that the university never reached that level of transmission during the Academic Year 2020-21, which ended with approximately 70 percent of online courses and 30 percent in person. (According to the University, the weekly positivity of the surveillance test averaged 1-2 percent last year and 75 percent of the online classes are taught). This semester, Ferris said, about 70 percent of the classes will be in person and 30 percent will be online. Then, aware of the counts of cases that increase rapidly elsewhere, the union of the faculty wanted to start the year with a clear understanding of when the classes would move online, if necessary.

    "All we want is for people to be able to take the options that allow them to feel safe," said Ferris, adding that Union members were surveyed about their preferences for the agreement. "This is a lesson in the importance of collective action."

    Also under the new agreement, teachers who are immunocompromised or caregivers for someone who is immunocompromised can teach remotely since the beginning of the term.

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    Previously, the American Federation of the Union Faculty of Faculty affiliated by Teachers and Northern Illinois had agreed on a student vaccination requirement, Regular Testing of Covid-19 students and teachers, and the use of high quality air filters In the classrooms. These points are all included in the new Memorandum of Understanding, too. The density of the classroom is limited to 75 percent.

    Ferris said that union and university have worked well to establish community security guidelines since March 2020. That does not mean that this set of provisions was achieved without a fight, however: not having insured a MOU for this fall, and with the beginning of the semester that is coming, the Union held a rally last week on campus. Only a few days later, a formal agreement was reached.

    "We have something of everything we wanted, and that is, of course, the way negotiations work."

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