NIU employees march for COVID-19 protections

Faculty%2C+instructors+and+staff+hold+signs+and+chant%2C+Safety+for+Huskies%2C+outside+of+Altgeld+Hall.

Ashley Dwy | Northern Star

Faculty, instructors and staff hold signs and chant, “Safety for Huskies,” outside of Altgeld Hall.

Ashley Dwy

DeKALB — About 50 faculty, instructors and staff members rallied Friday for a comprehensive health and safety agreement between NIU administration and employees for the fall semester.

Attendees held signs and marched from 12:30-1:30 p.m. around the Olive Goyle statue outside of Altgeld Hall. Employees chanted, “Safety for Huskies” during the rally, while no members of the administration were present.

For the past couple of weeks, 12 faculty, instructors and staff members have been negotiating with the administration to ensure that if there is a COVID-19 Delta variant outbreak that professors have the option to pivot to remote learning. Discussions are ongoing.

The rally was held Friday because the bargaining team wants the comprehensive agreement to be finalized before the semester starts on Aug. 23, said Kerry Ferris, associate professor for sociology.

“It’s important for the administration to know that, even on this wonderful, hot day, we care enough to say, ‘Come on, help us protect our students,’” undergraduate program director Laura Vazquez said.

Faculty want the freedom to choose to make their classes online in the case of a COVID-19 outbreak; however, administration is saying it is up to them and their management to decide. Faculty also want specifics on how that decision will be made, Reva Freedman, associate professor for computer science, said.

“(Administration) won’t tell us how they’re going to decide; they won’t tell us what their numbers are; they won’t tell us what their metrics are; it’s just, ‘Trust us,’” Freedman said.

So far, the bargaining team and administration have come to a mutual agreement about the mandatory student vaccination policy, updated mask policy and mandatory surveillance testing for those who are unvaccinated, Ferris said.

“There has been a lot of consensus, but we’re looking for a guarantee,” said Keith Nyquist, president of the instructors’ chapter of the union.

The bargaining team and the administration have another meeting at 3 p.m. Friday via Zoom.