Agreements and Understanding as a Result of COVID-19

Dear MSCA faculty and librarians,

The MSCA representatives of the Employee Relations Committee (ERC), a joint labor management committee established in both the day and DGCE collective bargaining agreements, held a three-hour conference call Friday morning.

You can view the complete list of agreements and understandings that were reached on the MSCA’s COVID-19 webpage.

We include here some of what we feel are the most pressing matters or those most frequently asked.

MSCA ERC Members:
CJ O’Donnell, MSCA President
Don Bullens, Worcester State University Chapter President
Aruna Krishnamurthy, Fitchburg State University Chapter President

Working on campus:  No faculty are being required to go to campus to teach.  We understand that some librarians are being required to work on campus at this time.  We are waiting further information.

Returning to working on campus this semester:  We know that Bridgewater State University, Fitchburg State University, Framingham State University and Worcester State University have notified faculty that they will be working remotely for the rest of this semester.  We are checking on the other universities.  We have inquired regarding librarians.

Access to faculty/librarian offices:  The situation varies by university.  If you are not aware of the status, you should check in with your chapter president.  All campuses are open; some require employees to notify the administration that they are on campus so they are aware of employees’ location if there is an emergency and for cleaning.

Online and remote delivery of lectures:  Training for different platforms is being provided at different universities and help desk support is available.  We are working with the universities to make training sessions available at one university accessible to instructors the other universities.

Modes of instruction not adaptable to online/remote teaching:  We acknowledged that the situation is dynamic and that instructors are trying alternatives.  In some cases students will be graded upon work performed (ensemble music, for instance) up to the point where there was a shift to remote teaching.

Student access to online remote learning:  If students do not receive or have difficulty with remote learning, evaluators will consider the circumstances.  Provosts are concerned and attentive to the fact that students may have technology and internet service issues to address.

Office hours:  We agreed that office hours may be conducted online (via email, etc.) during this period of remote teaching.

Availability of laptops for instructors:  The universities are making laptops available to the extent possible, especially for part-time and DGCE faculty.  Instructors should check at their university.

Will software subscriptions supplied/paid for by the university:  Efforts are being made to assist instructors with software needs, but this is a fiscal issue beyond the authority of those on the committee to commit to.  Decisions are being made at the university-level.

Privacy issues for online/remote teaching:  We expressed concerns about the administrations monitoring online/remote instruction.  We reminded them that there is applicable contract language and that the union will enforce the language, if required.

Academic integrity (tests, final exams, etc.):  There is mutual concern about this and the universities are trying to take steps to assist instructors with academic integrity concerns. 

Communication with students:  We noted that communication is occurring by primarily by email.  Fitchburg State University is using software that sends instructor’s emails as texts to students’ cell phones.  Student replies are returned as email to the instructor.

Obligations related to students with disability:  Faculty should continue to work with the campus disability resource officer for questions concerning accommodations.

Student evaluations for day Spring 2020 semester:  Student evaluations will not be conducted for day Spring 2020 courses, and as a result faculty will be held harmless for the lack of student evaluations for the Spring 2020 semester.  Student evaluations will be conducted only for DGCE courses that were scheduled to be instructed in an online modality, and as a result faculty who were not required to have student evaluations conducted for the Spring 2020 instructional period will be held harmless.

Classroom observations for Spring 2020 semester:  Classroom observations will not be conducted in the day program.

Advising obligations:  Faculty should continue to perform advising responsibilities electronically during this crisis period.  If you are unable to perform these duties, a professional advisor will assist the student.  The universities will not reassign students to a professional advisor.

Evaluations currently in progress:  For faculty and librarians being evaluated during this academic year, evaluators may transmit the evaluations and recommendation to the member electronically to the member’s campus email address and the member may respond electronically.  The evaluator receiving the response will acknowledge receipt of the email response.

Spring 2020 day part-time and DGCE faculty evaluations:  There will be no evaluation of part-time faculty teaching in the day program.  DGCE instructors who are teaching courses that were scheduled to be taught in an online modality will be evaluated.  DGCE instructors of face-to-face courses that were moved to remote instruction will not be evaluated.

Sick leave/administrative leave for full-time faculty and librarians:  This issue is somewhat moot now that instruction will be online/remote.  We will monitor the situation and engage with the universities if the need arises.

Sick leave for part-time & DGCE faculty:  It was noted that these instructors have limited, sick leave available under state law, and may have benefits under the newly enacted Federal law. Additionally, there is pending state legislation that may make additional time available.  Given the online/remote instruction that will take place it is hoped that this will not be an issue.

Sick leave bank:  We had previously agreed that bank members will do not have to be off the payroll for five days before accessing the bank.  The universities are considering our request to allow members to join the bank (with the contractually required contribution) earlier than September 2020.Graduation:  We noted that most of the universities have already postponed the ceremonies, and have not yet rescheduled them.