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UNTF, GEU demand transparency at virtual COVID-19 Policy Town Hall

September 24, 2021
<p>Statue of President John A. Hannah with a mask on in front of the Hannah Administration Building on Sept. 20, 2020.</p>

Statue of President John A. Hannah with a mask on in front of the Hannah Administration Building on Sept. 20, 2020.

The Union of Non-Tenure Track Faculty, or UNTF, and the Graduate Employees Union, or GEU, hosted a virtual town hall Thursday night to express their opinions on MSU’s COVID-19 policies.

Over 60 people were in attendance to share their opinions on how the university is dealing with the pandemic.

UNTF president Kate Birdsall kicked the meeting off by explaining her issues with how the university is handling the pandemic in regards to the lack of information faculty are being given. 

“We are patently unhappy with this business about not being told when we are exposed to COVID-19,” Birdsall said. 

Just last week, the university’s Triage Team developed a new policy that states that professors will only be informed of a positive case if they are considered to be a “close contact” of that particular student. 

Coming into the fall semester, the GEU and MSU agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding. The main tenets of the memorandum were that GEU members that were caught abroad would have health coverage extended to them, and that GEU members would have a say in their modality guaranteed and that MSU promised to handle contact tracing in relation to them.

GEU president Alex Aring expressed his distaste for the university after finding out that this agreement has not played out like it is supposed to. 

“All three of those wins have been systematically undermined by either policy decisions or inadequate infrastructure to actually uphold the agreements. MSU has actively participated in the undermining of those agreements,” Aring said. 

Third-year tenured faculty member Natasha Jones also addressed MSU President Samuel L. Stanley's of the pandemic. 

“MSU President sent out a message that in part stated that as president, it was his ultimate responsibility to protect his students, faculty and staff," Jones said. "So where is the protection? A vaccine mandate with no teeth ... My grace is in short supply.”

They stated how the university's vaccine requirement did not ask for evidence of actual vaccine status and it served more as a questionnaire.

Although they are unhappy with the way the university is handling the pandemic, Birdsall clarified that they are not pushing to go back to online learning, but just for respect.

“We are aware that we have colleagues across the entire university who prefer to teach face-to-face and who feel safe doing that and we do not want the mandate that says they can’t do that," Birdsall said. "We just want to be treated as the highly-educated professionals we are.”

The GEU will be hosting a protest titled “Wide Awake” on Sept. 24 at 8 p.m. as their next move on gaining ground with the university and the issues that stand between them. 

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