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Tuesday, April 20, 2021
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Union leaders want more say in UB’s COVID-19 decision-making process

UB Campus Governance Leaders group requests creation of joint committee on safety and health

The March 2 letter was signed by representatives from the Professional Staff Senate, Faculty Senate, Student Assembly and seven university-related unions.
The March 2 letter was signed by representatives from the Professional Staff Senate, Faculty Senate, Student Assembly and seven university-related unions.

In a letter to President Satish Tripathi dated March 2, the UB Campus Governance Leaders group requested that the university immediately create a joint Safety and Health Committee with United University Professions, the bargaining unit for SUNY faculty and professional staff members.

The letter, which was signed by representatives from the Professional Staff Senate, Faculty Senate, Student Assembly and seven university-related unions, asked UB to “add campus governance representation, not currently represented from the faculty membership, to all UB COVID-19 task forces, committees and working groups.”

Article 43 of UUP’s contract with New York State states that the university can, but is not required to, form a joint health and safety committee with union leadership.

“The Office of The President is in receipt of the letter,” a university spokesman wrote in an email. “President Tripathi has responded to the faculty senate regarding this matter.”

It remains unclear how Tripathi responded. Tripathi had previously written to the Faculty Senate to inform them he would not promulgate the Faculty Senate’s similar but separate resolution encouraging UB to establish a health and safety committee as outlined by Article 43, according to Robert Miletich, chair of the UB Faculty Senate. Without the president’s promulgation, the resolution will not become university policy.

Phil Glick, president of UUP’s Buffalo Health Sciences Chapter and a signatory to the CGL group’s letter, said he has received confirmation of the letter’s receipt but that he hasn’t received a further response.

Fred Stoss, Faculty Senate chair-elect of the CGL group and a signatory to the letter, did not respond to a request for comment.  

University officials have previously argued union representation on its COVID-19 committees is unnecessary since undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, staff and the chairs of the Faculty Senate and Professional Staff Senate are all represented on the committees. Union members make up 93% of faculty, many of whom are members of the university’s COVID-19 committees.

In their letter, members of the CGL group argued that, “employees serving within these groups who happen to be union and senate represented members of the faculty staff do not represent these bodies.”

“Despite being excluded from administrative-level discussions, employee unions and student associations, [we] have been vocal advocates in recommending COVID-19 health and safety guidelines since June 2020 including: advocating mask wearing, physical distancing, frequent and proper hand washing, telecommuting, baseline and surveillance testing of all students and employees and baseline and mandatory COVID testing for all UB community members on campus,” the CGL group wrote in their letter.

The CGL group’s letter comes just days after the UB Faculty Senate Executive Committee passed a resolution to establish a Faculty Senate Health and Safety Committee. The resolution would not require presidential promulgation and is expected to be presented to the full Faculty Senate on March 16. 

Grant Ashley is an assistant features editor and can be reached at grant.ashley@ubspectrum.com

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GRANT ASHLEY

Grant Ashley is an assistant features editor for The Spectrum.  He is a political science major and a (mediocre) Spanish minor.  He enjoys taking long bike rides and recreating Bob Ross paintings in crayon. 

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