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Tuesday, November 30, 2021
The independent student publication of The Unversity at Buffalo, since 1950

Letter to the editor

Dear Campus Community and Spectrum Editorial board,

We, the Campus Governance Leaders at the University at Buffalo, stand together to resolve issues that affect all our constituencies.  We are made up of the Chairs and Vice Chairs of the Faculty Senate and Professional Staff Senate; the Presidents and Vice Presidents of UUP Buffalo Center, UUP Health Sciences Center, CSEA, PEF, and GSEU; and StudentRepresentatives from the UB Student Council.    

Our goal is to work with the University Administration through shared governance venues to not only continue to make the University at Buffalo strong in academics, but also stimulate a campus environment where all members of the campus community are treated fairly, with dignity, in a healthy and safe work environment.  

We celebrate with President Tripathi the students returning to campus. We have missed the energy, vigor, and creative thought that our students willingly share with us. To get us here, we need to recognize that this accomplishment was no easy task. We recognize the work of the entire campus infrastructure ranging from faculty converting in-person classes to online classes instantaneously; the many people who maintained our buildings while the majority of campus stayed at home; the IT employees who swiftly established the IT infrastructure to allow our work and education to continue; the financial, academic, and residential support employees who relentlessly worked to reschedule classes, ensure students were given financial remedy for services no longer provided to them, and ensured all students and employees received adequate academic and mental health support. When our University was faced with significant challenges, our campus community came together so our University could open.    

We recognize that there is much work to be done to forward progress of our great institution.  We ask questions of how our university can tackle social justice and equity issues.  We commit ourselves to working with the administration to eradicating an environment that censures freedom to express thoughts and ideas; denounce those who retaliate for voicing concerns that are different from the mainstream; and strictly condemn those that discriminate others based on race, color, religion, age, sex, national origin, disability status, genetics, protected veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state or local laws. There is simply no place for this behavior on our campus, regardless of your position or status. In fact, a university campus should encourage a safe environment where there is different discourse, thought, protest, and demands that change exist. Those are the hallmarks any university should instill in its students and UB should be no different.

We recognize, as a result of the pandemic, the need for the university to adopt new and different ways of conducting our academic mission. The pandemic brought to light that many across the university are able to perform their responsibilities remotely. We hope that the university and its supervisors will continue to work with employees to encourage flexible scheduling and telecommuting arrangements. Flexible work schedules and telecommuting arrangements benefit everyone, it frees up university space, and promotes sustainability efforts.

We recognize the need for increased childcare and adult care on all three campuses for employees, students and the community.  It is known that there is a lack of access to affordable child care and adult care in the area. The crisis is keeping women, low-wage workers, and ethnic minorities out of the workforce. Any institution that does not provide high-quality, accessible child care and adult care is contributing to the crisis of equity, diversity, and inclusion. By having on-campus and adult care facilities, the university will provide quality jobs to the surrounding campus community, counteract some of the negative perceptions neighborhoods and communities have of the University, and provide relief to our colleagues that their children and elderly parents are cared for while they perform their university responsibilities.

We further recognize the need to aggressively be a champion of sustainability efforts. We have already mentioned that telecommuting is one way to reduce our carbon footprint. We recognize the strides the university has made with the installation of the solar arrays and its contribution to the development of supporting an infrastructure that is free of carbon emissions. We encourage the university to build further on this course environmentally, and significantly invest in electric vehicle purchases, as well as the development of an infrastructure to support electric vehicles. In addition, and most importantly, the greatest contribution that UB will make to a sustainable world is to holistically prepare every UB student to deal with the sustainable challenges ahead. This can only be accomplished through a more complete curricular and cocurricular menu that provides sustainable learning outcomes for each and every UB student.

We recognize that much of UB’s success falls upon the shoulders of TA’s, GA’s, and Adjunct instructors. We also recognize the precarity under which these critical members of the university community work, and the stress and uncertainty those conditions induce. We urge the university to develop guidelines where necessary to stabilize expectations, provide some measure of job security, and provide a pathway to more permanent employment for these workers. Each of these groups deserve the same dignity and respect as their full-time colleagues. They deserve to be fairly compensated for their efforts. We encourage the university to find ways to better compensate and stabilize employments for these groups so that we can continue to harness their teaching and research skills.

A University cannot sustain a residential campus if those that occupy it do not feel safe.   As the university continues to invest in upgrading the infrastructure of its aging buildings, we encourage the university investment in cleaning and upgrading all HVAC systems across campus that do not meet CDC recommended standards. These recommendations include, but are not limited to, the use of portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fan/filtration and other tested and accepted systems to enhance air cleaning. It is also recommended by the CDC to use ultraviolet germicidal irradiation as a supplemental treatment to inactivate SARS-CoV-2 when options for increasing room ventilation and filtration are limited. In non-residential settings, running the HVAC system at maximum outside airflow for 2 hours before and after the building is occupied is also recommended.  

In a time when shared governance is declining in higher education, we have formed to ensure that our voices will continually be heard across the University to positively influence policy, contract negotiations, and practices at the University. We ask that everyone join us by participating in your respective governance organizations.  

If you have not joined your respective union, or checked in with your Faculty and Professional Staff Senate representatives, do so today. There are campaigns and movements across campus that exist for the betterment of SUNY and the University at Buffalo. Together, we can make significant changes at our University.  

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Chair, Faculty Senate: Frederick Stoss, MS, MLS

Chair, Professional Staff Senate: Timothy Tryjankowski

Vice-Chair, Professional Staff Senate: Don Erb

President, UUP Buffalo Center Chapter: Kenneth Kern

Vice President of Academics, UUP Buffalo Center: Mathew Dimick

Vice President of Professionals, UUP Buffalo Center Chapter: Kathleen Kielar, Ph.D.

President, UUP Health Sciences Chapter: Phillip Glick, MD, MBA, FACS, FAAP, FRCS (Eng.)

Vice President of Academics: Thomas Melendy, Ph.D.

Vice President of Professionals: Toby Cronk

President, CSEA: Steven Jeter

President, GSEU: Lawrence Mullen

President, PEF: Brian Phillips

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