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COVID Petition to the BOR from UNI
Dear Dr. Richards, Regents Bates, Barker, Boettger, Crow, Dakovich, Dunkel, Lindenmayer, Rouse,

We write to join our colleagues at the University of Iowa to ask for your swift action and compassion to protect the health and safety of students, faculty, staff, administrators and others at UNI as we begin fall classes August 23.  Specifically and most immediately, we ask for a mask mandate for UNI indoor campus spaces, shifts in classrooms to allow for greater social distancing, and mandating the COVID vaccine for employees and students once the vaccine has full FDA approval.
Like all of you, we had hoped that with the development of effective vaccines last spring, our return to fall would be a return to normalcy. However, in the last month, things have quickly changed. We’ve seen the exponential growth of COVID variants like Delta and a growth in cases here in Black Hawk County rising to pre-vaccine levels.  We’ve read growing evidence that existing vaccines are not as effective in preventing infection or transmission with variant forms of COVID (although they still offer important protection against hospitalization or death) and we have seen a leveling off of vaccinations in the county and state. On Wednesday, we were informed that the BOR will continue to only encourage masks and vaccines while prohibiting us from mandating them.  These are not normal times.  COVID remains a serious threat, and most of the strategies that kept us safe last year will not be in place this year.
The OSHA Act of 1970 SEC. 5. (1) 29 USC 654 provides clear guidance on basic standards for workplace safety:
“Each employer shall furnish to each of his [sic.] employees employment and a place
of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are
likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;”
The science is clear that vaccines and masks are the most effective means protecting us against the recognized hazard of COVID and its variant forms. As COVID has already caused the deaths of thousands of Iowans, its serious threat to physical harm to your employees cannot be minimized. Your COVID policies leave us with an unsafe work environment, leaving us exposed to the recognized hazard of COVID, which has already killed thousands of Iowans.
UNI has faculty with their own serious health risks who have been denied an accommodation to teach online in fall 2021 because it is, according to university officials, inconvenient for students to switch course delivery.  We have faculty with vulnerable and unvaccinated children or other family members who are not eligible for ADA accommodations left with few options to protect their family as you require them to teach face to face in a mask-optional, socially-distanced-impossible environment. This is professionally and ethically untenable.
We recognize that this is a politically charged issue, but at the end of the day each of you must answer to your own conscience or higher power whether you did all you could to protect the most vulnerable under your care. It should not take another spike in infections, hospitalizations, or deaths for you to act to prevent what is predictable given the science and the experience of other states. We should not risk the death or long-term COVID disability of one university employee or student because we did not act soon enough.
Please, do the right thing. Speak truth to power.  Stand up for the thousands of Regents employees and students who depend on your safeguarding.
•Follow CDC guidance and reinstate a mask mandate for unvaccinated individuals as well as those vaccinated as long as local data show a high rate of infection.
•Once COVID vaccines receive full FDA approval, require them for students, staff, and employees.
•Recommend the offering of virtual options for all campus meetings
•Establish clear and transparent benchmark data to trigger decisions for moving online and returning to face-to-face instruction.
Thank you for your consideration and please do not hesitate to contact us for further discussion. We sign below and will update with the names of additional faculty, staff, or students as they join our invitation of petition.
Becky Hawbaker                                         Chris Martin
President, United Faculty-AAUP               Vice President, United Faculty-AAUP

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