Letter to Provost Lejuez – Stamford Concerns
The University of Connecticut Chapter of
THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS, INC.
September 15, 2021
Provost Lejuez, Provost
University of Connecticut
Many Stamford faculty have informed the UConn-AAUP Executive Committee of deep concerns about the safety of their working conditions; they also state that Stamford Administration policies on vaccination, testing, masking, and social distancing are inadequate.
- The Stamford campus has a low vaccination rate, which indicates that the vaccination mandate is not being enforced on campus. Only 88% of Stamford students are partially or fully vaccinated, compared to 97% in Storrs (as of 9/7/21). Storrs has a vaccine exemption rate of 3%, so its 97% vaccination rate shows that the vaccination mandate is being enforced in Storrs. Stamford has a vaccine exemption rate of 4%; if the vaccine mandate were being enforced, the vaccination rate in Stamford would be 96%.
- Non-residential students make up approximately 85% of the students in Stamford, indicating that the chance for the Delta variant to spread on campus is greater than Storrs.
- For a non-residential student COVID case to be counted in Stamford, the student would have to upload a medical record that shows that they tested positive for COVID to the SHaW portal, leading to significant undercounting of COVID cases among commuter students.
- There is no program of mandatory weekly testing for unvaccinated non-residential students at the Stamford Campus, while there is such a program in Storrs.
- There is no enforcement of mandatory masking rules. Faculty routinely observe students hanging out together in the cafeteria area without masks when they are not eating, students sitting in the cafeteria area without a mask on with a drink in front of them for long periods of time, students walking in the hallways without a mask on, and students congregating in the hallways and bathrooms to talk without masks on. Furthermore, some faculty members have reported instances when they have asked a student to put a mask on and the student has refused to do so. Furthermore, Stamford masking rules include the exception that students may take off their masks anywhere on campus to take a drink, including classrooms.
- Large, crowded events held in the concourse, an area near the only entrance to the campus, make it impossible for people who wish to avoid crowds for their own safety (per CDC guidelines) to do so. For example, on 9/9/21, the Stamford campus sponsored a very large and crowded indoor “Involvement Fair” on the concourse, with approximately 100 students packed closely together to talk with people at tables throughout the two-hour event.
All of these conditions greatly increase the likelihood that there will be many preventable cases of COVID among students, faculty, and staff on the Stamford campus, that there will be a higher rate of infection on the Stamford campus than in Storrs (due to unequal enforcement of rules and unequal access to resources such as testing), and that many cases will go unnoticed and uncounted, compounding the problem.
We request the immediate implementation of the following:
- Enforcement of the vaccination mandate on the Stamford campus. All students who are not fully vaccinated and do not have a vaccine exemption should be banned from the campus until they comply with the mandate.
- Weekly surveillance testing of all unvaccinated students in Stamford, including non-residential students. There is currently such a program in Storrs. There must be a similar program in Stamford.
- Enforcement of the mask mandate. Enforcement must include posting more signage, distributing flyers with the protocols and providing extra masks for students who do not have one. Employees should staff the entrance on Franklin Street and walk the hallways to remind people to wear masks correctly over their noses and mouths. Students who are not wearing masks or appropriately social distancing must comply upon request from a University official or professor. Those who fail to adhere to protocols will be reported to Community Standards. Discipline could include a ban from campus and a lockout from university systems (e.g. student admin, HuskyCT).
- Rescind the exception to the masking rule that states that people may take off their masks for a “quick drink” anywhere on campus. Eating and drinking should be limited to designated eating areas.
- A ban on extra- and co-curricular activities that could cause crowding in the concourse.
We also request that the university:
- Move toward implementing random surveillance testing of all students, faculty and staff.
- Work to de-densify the campus by offering additional remote classes for students and faculty who prefer them.
- Give professors the option of teaching F2F courses in new ways that maintain crucial in-person instruction but also include an on-line component to reduce density and promote social distancing.
UConn-AAUP Executive Committee