Group says UD COVID-19 reopening plan too risky

A group that’s opposed to the University of Dayton’s fall COVID-19 reopening plan say school officials are putting profits over student and employee health.

University officials disputed those claims, and said it gave everyone in the campus community the opportunity to be heard, and some of those recommendations were included in the reopening plans.

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

“Collaboration, equity and transparency are among our guiding principles for making decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic,” UD said in a statement. While the pandemic created many uncertainties for UD, as well as all of higher education, we continue to take important steps for our employees.”

The university said it has notified all employees who were furloughed that they will be recalled in the next six to eight weeks, and they started issuing contracts two weeks ago to full-time lecturers.

UD Solidarity — comprised of a group of faculty, staff, students and alumni — also said the university did not get input from enough people before developing the plan. Group members sent emails to senior university leaders and spoke out at some of the public forums the institution held, however, their voices were not heard, said Joel Pruce, the group’s spokesman and an associate professor in the Department of Political Science said during a press conference on campus Tuesday afternoon.

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

Pruce also addressed the university’s decision to furlough more than 400 employees and terminate others because of revenue loses shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic started.

“Despite the administration’s talk of ‘shared sacrifice,’ it is clear that the least represented and most vulnerable employees bore the brunt of the cuts,” he said. “As we move toward reopening, employees are now under pressure to risk our lives or lose our jobs. This is why we are here today.

“Our core message today … is about urging the administration to make the best possible plan to safeguard the lives of students, university employees and members of the broader community,” he continued. “It is our hope that today’s event will encourage collaborative and productive dialogue, and improve the way we navigate this difficult time.”

UD Solidarity has sent a letter to the university president urging him to establish an effective plan for coronavirus testing and expanding paid leave for employees who get sick at work. They are also concerned about the threat of salary cuts, gender and racial equity, shared decision-making and budget transparency.

Related: UD to lay off or furlough more than 500 employees

Joseph Valenzano, a communications professor, said the university gave faculty and staff ample opportunity to provide recommendations. There were 25 different working groups on campus and members of the UD Solidarity spoke at some of them. People made thousands of recommendations, so it’s impractical to include all of them in the plan, Valenzano said, noting that many of his suggestions were not included.

University officials also went into great details about the institution’s financial outlook at some of the forums, he said. Some of the decisions were tough, however, the institution did what they thought was best for the campus and the surrounding community.

“We do have ripple effects,” Valenzano said. “Those ripple effects can really dangerously affect the lives of people who aren’t even affiliated directly with the institution. I think that we need to do our best for everybody right now.”

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