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UD group challenges reopening plan

A woman exercises on the UD campus Monday July 13, 2020. Jim Noelker/Staff
A woman exercises on the UD campus Monday July 13, 2020. Jim Noelker/Staff

University says employees were given many opportunities to ask questions, provide feedback on plan.

A group of University of Dayton employees have started a petition and plan to host a news conference Tuesday afternoon to express their concerns about the institution’s plan to reopen in the fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group, known as UD Solidarity, say the university’s plan takes students’ health into consideration by giving them the option to take online or in-person classes. However, the same consideration was not given to instructors and other employees, and that’s their most urgent concern, said Joel Pruce, the group’s spokesman and an associate professor in the Department of Political Science.

Photos: Professors at UD hold demonstration about school opening in the fall

The university denied that claim in a statement, saying it has given employees multiple opportunities to ask questions and be a part of the planning.

When coming up with their plan, the university should have given all employees — not just senior level faculty and staff — the opportunity to provide input, Pruce said.

“It’s really about, even more generally, how staff and faculty are considered, how our voices are considered, are we listened to, do we have a seat at the table while these decisions are being made that affect us?” Pruce said. “And so the most fundamental one is how we work and where we work.”

Related: Coronavirus: UD, Sinclair announce plans to reopen campus

In the group’s petition, which had about 200 signatures Monday afternoon, UD Solidarity also urges the university to establish an effective plan for coronavirus testing and expanding paid leave for employees who get sick at work. The group’s also concerned about the threat of salary cuts, gender and racial equity, shared decision-making and budget transparency, according to a news release.

Related: Coronavirus: University of Dayton reports first case on campus

UD Solidarity’s claim that employees were not included when the school devised the reopening plan is “patently untrue,” the university said in a statement. More than 100 faculty, staff and students from across campus were involved in the planning, and they continue to be involved in creating and implementing the Return to Campus plans through working groups. In addition, more than 1,650 students responded to a survey.

The university said it will continue to listen to faculty, staff and students’ perspectives. The COVID-19 plan, which was created with advice from scientific and medical experts, is flexible and will continue to evolve.

“The university’s formal shared governance bodies have been respected and actively engaged, and financial scenarios for the coming year have been discussed with the campus regularly,” according to UD’s statement. “Additionally, all faculty and staff have been able to share their concerns and ideas via multiple modalities. This includes multiple virtual town hall meetings, some attended by up to 1,000 employees, where everyone had the opportunity to ask questions directly to administrators and members of the working groups, and provide feedback on the plans as they were drafted.”

Related: Robust testing, face coverings part of UD’s reopening plan

The university reached out to students and employees to ask for input, via various forums, including town halls and email. However, not many of the voices were listened to, Pruce said, and some people did not approve the plan.

“It is not clear in the time between the recommendations and the final plan that the voices that I heard being expressed were listened to,” he said. “There don’t seem to be many changes in the direction that was laid out.”