Public Protest Scheduled for Thursday, August 13 at 2pm

The following is a letter from Jason Prentice, Senior Lecturer in the CAS Writing Program at BU, announcing plans for a public protest that I am happy to say I will attend. I encourage everyone reading this to also attend. Make sure to sign up for more information, following the link in bold below.

I hope that you and yours are doing well. I write to ask you to join me — and many of our fellow BU community members, as well as concerned citizens from outside BU — in a public protest against our administration’s reopening plan.  

You may have signed the Star-Powell petition demanding that faculty be permitted to choose to teach in-person, online, or in whatever manner best suits their personal health considerations, their subject matter, and the needs of their students. This protest makes essentially the same demand, along with two others. Here is the core message:  

Campus Health is Community Health   

1) BU must de-densify campus by allowing everyone who can to work remotely.   

2) BU must provide PPE to everyone who needs to be on campus.   

3) BU must share its COVID testing capabilities with the community.   

For months, the administration has failed to answer key questions and concerns raised in Faculty Council, town-hall meetings, and joint labor-management sessions, intent on moving ahead with a plan conceived months ago, behind closed doors, seemingly without regard for voices of key stakeholders or changing circumstances. Yet in recent weeks, more and more institutions of higher education have reversed or drastically cut back plans similar to BU’s, including peer institutions such as USC, University of Miami (Ohio), and Emory, as well as near peers, such as Johns Hopkins. With these reversals, along with the worsening condition of the pandemic nationally and increasing concerns expressed by local government officials, we — a coalition of BU faculty and staff unions, BU graduate student organizations, and citizens from across the region — believe it is necessary and timely to apply renewed pressure on President Brown. 

Therefore, we’ve organized a public protest for Thursday, August 13, at 2:00 p.m., in the form of a simultaneous car caravan, bike rally, and socially distanced march on foot, as well as via social media, in order to accommodate whichever form of protest participants are comfortable with.   

I hope you will consider joining us. We’re running out of time and may not get another chance to prevent things from getting out of control.  

You can sign up here: https://forms.gle/dsLHBvbJzyrjeZE1A   

In coming days, participants who register will receive additional information. In the meantime,  please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.  

Sincerely,
Jason

Petition Delivered with 1063 Signatures, a Faculty Council Meeting, and English Department Letter

Originally published June 15, 2020

This morning we forwarded our petition as it was at 9am to our university leaders (with 1063 signatures after repeat entries were removed).  If anyone would like a copy of the spreadsheet and the open email we sent, please let me know. Thank you very much to everyone who has signed it so far! The petition remains open and continues to attract signatures. Please do sign it if you agree with it. I heard that at the meeting of the Faculty Council this afternoon (I’m not a member), a leader of the university claimed that an assumption of our original letter was incorrect because the university will be considering making some exceptions to Learn from Anywhere for medical reasons. This didn’t seem to us to be on the cards when we wrote our letter, and it is no reason at all to dismiss everything else we say in the letter, which doesn’t depend at all on this assumption. We argued that every professor or instructor should have the option of teaching online, and not just those who are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. An official BU spokesperson recently said, “It’s important to note that the University has not yet made any final decisions about faculty returning to the classroom, and there is no requirement in place for all faculty to teach in-person this fall.” That’s “misleading at best,” as Russell Powell put it in an understated way in an interview where he was asked about the spokesperson’s comment (see the CommonWealth article linked to below for these quotes). As I have said before, faculty have been sent emails internally that direct Deans to keep exceptions to an absolute minimum and for professors to make all such appeals, which must go for approval to a Dean, “pedagogically-driven.” Of course, we will welcome any positive changes​ to university policy, but it is not true to say there is no policy or no requirement in place. Finally, at the end of the day, we received a wonderful open letter to our leaders from the members of the English department. 

500 Signatures in 24 Hours and Boston Globe Article

Originally published June 11, 2020

Our petition received approximately 500 signatures in the first twenty four hours, from professors,  lecturers, medical professionals, graduate teaching fellows, and concerned members of the public. We are hoping to receive many more signatures, and would encourage everyone to continue sending around the above link, or the link for the present web page (which contains both the petition link, above, and our original letter, below). Tonight, our petition was mentioned in news stories about recent events at BU that came out in the Boston Globe (here is  a link to their story), WBUR Edify (here is a link to their story) and  CommonWealth magazine (here is a link to their story). And a few days ago, a BU student reporter got the scoop on the story (here is a link to her article).

The Petitions

Originally published June 10, 2020

Yesterday, the university told students, “LfA [Learn from Anywhere] will give our students the option to either be in the classroom in-person or participate remotely from a dorm room or off-campus home. Students may exercise the remote option for a period of time or for the entire semester. The decision to learn remotely may be driven by a travel restriction or illness that is temporary or simply by a student’s desire to continue extreme social distancing” (Letter to Students, June 9, emphasis added at the end).

We are hoping the university will extend the same degree of respect to professors and other teachers. We’re all in this together. Recognizing this fact, BU students today surprised us (there was no coordination) when they set up a petition for students to sign saying that we should not have to teach in the classroom if they don’t have to learn in the classroom  (Russell Powell and I call this Teach from Anywhere). We are very grateful to the students who set up this petition (whoever they are), and all the students signing it. If you are a BU student, please sign that petition. If you are a BU professor or instructor, or just wish to show support for BU professors and instructors , please sign the BU teachers petition.  An automatically updated list of those that have already signed this petition is also available.

A Blog is Born

Welcome to this new blog, which replaces a personal web page. That page was created at the beginning of June 2020, when my colleague Russell Powell and I coauthored an open letter to the President and Provost of Boston University, arguing that during this pandemic, university teachers at BU should be permitted to teach their courses online if they wish to. About a week later, we posted a petition, which has so far collected over 1400 signatures, many from BU professors and lecturers, but also many from BU students. If you are a university teacher or student who hasn’t signed it, please do so. Our university administration is continuing to pursue a policy that other universities (e.g. MIT, Duke and Chicago) humanely reject; these other universities agree with us that all teaching employees that wish to teach online should be allowed to teach online. If you have any news about policies or developments on campus, please email allcaution@gmail.com.
Daniel Star