July 13, 2020 — The U-M Provost’s Office has issued a policy and colleges have sent out surveys on Instructional Needs and Preferences for Academic Year 20-21. Here is GEO’s position on them: 

  • GEO finds the intention, timing, and process of this survey highly problematic. We are particularly alarmed at the University’s self-identification criteria for remote-work prioritization. As the open letter from disabled UM students and allies maintains, “In a pandemic where everyone is at least at some risk of serious life-long complications and even death, individual accommodations for “high risk” individuals is not an appropriate policy.” GEO calls for the option to work remotely for all who want to, without the need for documentation or “self-identification.” 
  • We contest LSA Dean Curzan’s assertion that instructors have a “shared responsibility to deliver a residential semester” given that the University has not demonstrated that it can guarantee our safety. UM’s own Environment, Health, and Safety guidance recommends teaching and working remotely. We reaffirm GEO’s commitment to protecting international students under the new ICE regulations and reassert that it is U-M’s responsibility to protect its workers’ and students’ safety in every way, including both from deportation and from risky teaching conditions.
  • We maintain that instructors cannot determine their needs and preferences regarding in-person work without having more detailed information about what safety precautions U-M will ensure for in-person work in the Fall, including testing and contact tracing plans and the university’s risk assessments for on-campus spread.
  • We call for greater transparency on the part of University leadership in Fall planning – including precisely how Fall teaching plans will be decided – and robust GEO involvement moving forward. Since our health is on the line, we should decide what our fall work conditions look like.

We remind GEO members:

  • You can delete / resubmit your answers. It is unclear how long the option to delete and resubmit will be available.
  • The policy does not require any documentation, proof, or further explanation for your self-identification. You cannot be pressured to reveal information about your health, family, or living situation that you used to self-identify as at risk or otherwise unwilling to teach in person.
  • The survey is optional.
  • GEO is still meeting weekly with Human Resources to share questions and concerns about this policy and other issues. 

You can email umgeo@geo3550.org to get more involved in our COVID-related organizing, or to share any questions or concerns about this policy.

GEO Statement on U-M Remote Teaching Survey