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Employee groups seek to work closer with UA leadership for safer campus
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Employee groups seek to work closer with UA leadership for safer campus

On Monday, Oct. 12, about 1,500 more students joined 6,200 of their peers who are already attending in-person classes.

Citing layoffs and resignations related to the pandemic and the return of more students to classes on campus, UA employee groups on Tuesday shared concerns about reopening and getting more of a say in campus decisions.

The 700-plus person Coalition for Academic Justice at University of Arizona along with the recently formed campuswide union said Tuesday that they have a role in improving campus. Their concerns were spread across many topics regarding university operations. The common goal: “How do we come together and work together to address a lot of these issues?” said Lane Santa Cruz, Tucson’s Ward 1 councilmember and a UA alumni. “I know that we didn’t create them, but it’s going to take us to address them as well.”

The groups called for more shared governance to improve the decision-making processes at the UA. Under state law, university employees “shall participate in the governance of their respective Universities and shall actively participate in the development of University policy.”

“I’m representing the numerous members of our university community who were not consulted during the administration’s planning to reopen campus,” said Nick Halsey, a UA faculty member. “Yet we’re now dealing with the consequences of the admin’s irresponsible and unilateral decision made on April 13 with case counts rising since March. President (Robert) Robbins initially announced a plan to bring students back to campus this fall.”

There have been 331 layoffs and nonrenewals as well as 348 resignations this year on the campus, the groups said.

In response to the campus reopening, the coalition launched a tool to report unsafe “work, study and residential conditions,” the groups said. They promoted their site (cajuarizona.com/non-compliance) on Tuesday as the administration prepares to allow more students to attend in-person classes.

On Monday, Oct. 12, about 2,500 more students will join 6,200 of their peers who are already attending in-person classes. The classes will have 30 or fewer students enrolled, but have raised concerns about virus spread. There have been 2,376 confirmed coronavirus cases at the UA since Aug.4.

“University of Arizona is made possible by us, by the people working and studying here. We are the lifeblood of this university,” said Logan Phillips, a union member and graduate student. “The biggest problem is that before now, we haven’t had a way to take collective action to address our shared concerns.”

Members of Union Campus Workers of Arizona #7065, whose membership is “hundreds strong,” according to Phillips, will be pushing for a slow start to the spring semester in an effort to help prevent coronavirus outbreaks.

“Even in the case of all accounting metrics being at acceptable levels, the university should wait two to three weeks to proceed with reentry given the potential multiweek virus incubation period,” said Halsey, adding that UA should begin the spring semester with essential in-person classes as others remain online.

Contact Star reporter Shaq Davis at 573-4218 or sdavis@tucson.com

On Twitter: @ShaqDavis1.


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