Northern Arizona University should not reopen for in-person instruction in the midst of an increased pandemic wave, according to a statement released by the University Union of Northern Arizona in association with the American Federation of Teachers (UUNA-AFT) on July 8.
There have been 91,858 reported cases of COVID-19 in the state of Arizona as of July 3, the statement reports. Consequently, UUNA-AFT has decided that opening NAU’s Mountain Campus in August is "irresponsible" amid the current health crisis. The collaborative statement urges administration and the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) to consider beginning the fall semester within an online format.
However, the statement outlines situations, such as the introduction of a vaccine or reliable means to test and trace COVID-19, where the return of in-person university courses is feasible. Should classes resume before these safety measures are in place, the statement calls for members of the NAU community to observe personal precautions.
“If NAU opens to full residential capacity this fall, in the context of the current pandemic, faculty, staff, and graduate student workers need the right to decide their work modalities based on their individual and family health needs,” the UUNA-AFT statement said.
UUNA-AFT states that if NAU does continue with the current administrative plan, which is currently to begin holding classes on August 12, then all faculty members, including graduate student workers, should be allotted the opportunity to choose their own teaching and meeting modalities. Furthermore, the organizations emphasize that any of the aforementioned work modality decisions should not affect a staff or faculty member’s standing within the university or incur any repercussions.
The main urge of UUNA-AFT’s statement asks NAU to "reopen primarily online and hold off on returning to full in person residency and instruction." The statement noted that moving forward with current administrative plans could result in "catastrophic consequences for the health of everyone connected to NAU."
"We must do better," the statement concludes.