Open Letter for a Just KCTCS During and Beyond COVID-19
Recognizing that we are in a time of upheaval and uncertainty, both due to COVID-19 and the racial reckoning our country is confronting, we, as faculty, staff, and community members of the Kentucky Community and Technology College System, would like to express concern about the health, safety, and dignity of all KCTCS employees and students.

Particularly given recent events, such as the closing of the University of North Carolina and University of Notre Dame campuses and the rapidly rising number of positive cases at UK in Lexington, we have seen that the COVID-19 virus can escalate quickly on college campuses and that adequate measures have not been taken to slow this spread. Furthermore, studies from around the country show that COVID-19 disproportionately affects people and communities of color. We want our system’s policies and procedures related to COVID-19 to reflect the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion that it claims to uphold.

Our health and safety concerns and the implementation of safety procedures differ across colleges, but we stand united that the safety procedures that have been implemented are not sufficient. Workers have been mandated or pressured to work on campus unnecessarily, even when their duties can be performed just as effectively remotely. Further, many of those who are immunocompromised or live with people who are immunocompromised have not been permitted to work from home, and many of those who can work from home were required to first come to campus and perform extra work in exchange for the right to a safe work environment.

Examples of issues faced by some campuses include an inadequate amount of cleaning and safety supplies. Some buildings are deep cleaned overnight, but during the day, employees are responsible for any disinfecting of the buildings, including restrooms. Students are required to perform temperature checks and stay home when showing symptoms, but there is a lack of ability to enforce these requirements and to verify when they are being met. Some of us have had outside contractors working in our buildings without masks. We understand that this is a difficult time in higher education, but it is unacceptable that we are asked to take these risks and to pass them on to our students and families.

Moreover, we are concerned for the future of higher education in the Commonwealth. In the past, highly-paid administrators have used crises such as these to make further cuts to front-line staff and faculty as opposed to taking cuts themselves. We stand firmly against austerity measures which disproportionately affect adjunct faculty, facilities workers, and other front-line workers in addition to low-income students, and students and workers of color.

We call on the KCTCS administration, as well as the administrations at each college, to:

-Allow all faculty and staff whose work allows it the right to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
-Be completely transparent around the rate of infection, the threshold at which the KCTCS administration would choose to go remote, and any exposure of students and campus workers to COVID-19.
-Create a mechanism for employees and students to report health and safety issues anonymously and then make sure that those issues are addressed.
-Create a system-wide fund to cover healthcare costs for campus workers who are hospitalized with COVID-19, paid for with a decrease in pay from administrators that make more than $100,000 in salary per year.
-Seek an understanding of the issues faced by students and workers of color on our campuses and take concrete action to address these issues. As first steps: hire more staff, faculty, and administrators of color; and create and implement system-wide anti-racism trainings for administrators, faculty, staff, and security workers.
-Offer a Hazard Pay increase for all workers required to work on campus during the pandemic with increased potential exposure to sickness.
-Offer an instructor retainer fee of $300 per cancelled course to all adjunct professors who have had last minute load reduction, to cover time spent working on the course and to partially cover expected income (within two months of the start of the semester).
-Offer all adjunct faculty, temporary staff, and part-time staff the opportunity to purchase the full-time health insurance plan.
-Commit to no reduction in the labor force during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. We are already understaffed and overworked. Further cuts would lead to diminished student learning outcomes.

Sincerely,

Rebecca Johnson, Knowledge Analyst, Gateway Community and Technical College
Dane Ritter, Adjunct Instructor in English, Bluegrass Community and Technical College
Steve Stone, Librarian, Bluegrass Community and Technical College
Megan White, Adjunct Instructor in Geography, Bluegrass Community and Technical College

Full list of signers available here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/113nonNV11BvAyHHEMhOM6Q8WE60kWxnS-Q7sImXmeq4/edit?usp=sharing

*This Open Letter was written by members of United Campus Workers Kentucky -- a union which represents faculty, staff, and graduate workers throughout the Commonwealth. You can learn more about our union at ucwkentucky.org and sign up to become a member at ucwkentucky.org/join

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