BREAKING: CFAC reaches agreement with college on in-person teaching, safety concerns

By Kendall Polidori, Co-editor-in-chief

After weeks of negotiations, Columbia’s part-time faculty union, CFAC, secured ultraviolet germicidal irradiation and proper hazard assessments for some classrooms. Faculty members will now have the option to teach remotely for the rest of the semester if their room has not been assessed. K’Von Jackson

The college’s part-time faculty union, CFAC, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the administration after union members accused administrators of sending “threatening and reckless” letters to those who were refusing to teach in conditions that would “pose a threat to their health and safety.”

In a Tuesday, Oct. 6 email to its membership, CFAC said the union was “able to secure [Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation] and a hazard assessment that satisfied our experts in some of the teaching environments.”

For faculty members teaching in classrooms where no assessment was conducted and no UVGI was installed, the union said its members now have the right to teach remotely for the remainder of the semester. But, faculty who wish to teach remotely and are included on this list must respond to an email from Senior Vice President and Provost Marcella David by Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 5 p.m.

A full list of rooms that have received hazard assessments can be found here.

A Tuesday, Oct. 6 joint email from David and Diana Vallera, president of CFAC, stated “per the Memorandum of Understanding, in-person instruction scheduled in classrooms with UVGI and/or a completed, satisfactory air assessment will continue in-person.”

Instructors teaching in non-assessed rooms will have the opportunity to express a preference to teach remotely, “which the college will grant,” according to the joint message.

The union’s message to its members said some classes needed to have some in-person instruction and could not be moved to fully remote. So, the union worked with the college to find solutions, which include “moving some course sections to areas where UVGI is installed, providing a portable UV unit, or some members [remaining] in those areas.”

In response to some union members receiving perceived threatening emails from administration, the union’s message to its membership said the union ensured that its members will not be retaliated against and that their rights will be protected.

In the joint email, David and Vallera said the MOU reflects a “shared commitment towards health and safety of the entire college community and the best possible educational experience and pedagogy for our students during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Updated Tuesday, Oct. 7 at 10 p.m.

In a Tuesday, Oct. 6 email to the Chronicle, Vallera said CFAC stayed true to its goal of ensuring safety for everyone on campus.

“We especially thank our students, faculty and staff for taking part in town halls, and standing up for a safer environment. I want to acknowledge the power of the press, the pursuit of truth and grassroots organizing to shed light on facts and help us achieve our goals,” Vallera said. “Everyone at Columbia deserves to have a safe work and learning environment and to make informed decisions for their health and well-being.”

She said she is pleased to have worked with the administration to come to an agreement and looks forward to working with stakeholders, including students, to continue these efforts.

More updates to come.