As educators committed to the public good, we recognize our responsibility—on campus and off—to advocate for students and fellow workers made even more vulnerable during the pandemic. The global pandemic is aggravating deep, endemic inequities and racial disparities, including uneven access to jobs, education, housing and healthcare as well as the systemic deployment of racist violence and police brutality against Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). While COVID-19 threatens all people, BIPOC communities are overrepresented among workers at high risk of exposure, suffering astonishingly high infection and death rates and greater economic losses.
In this statement, we raise concerns over multiple, conjoined racial crises and call for measures that respond to them. We address the racially disproportionate health risk of the COVID-19 crisis; the existing economic disparities deepened by the pandemic; the ongoing crisis of racist policing; and attacks on foreign-born people, including international, undocumented, and “DACA-mented” students.
Responding to the health crisis
We urge university administrators to think beyond the bottom line and stand with all vulnerable members of university communities, whether they are BIPOC, DACA recipients, older or immunocompromised workers, undocumented immigrants, or international students. Campus reopening plans must take racial disparities into account. Failing to do so will disproportionately expose BIPOC workers, students, and community members to severe illness and death. Workers in custodial and dining services, for instance, will endure greater risk of exposure as they work in enclosed spaces for long periods of time. We are concerned for workers’ families and communities when they return home, potentially spreading the virus from campus. Public health and public safety must be our first priorities.
University administrations must:
- Redefine their approach to campus reopenings to safeguard our most vulnerable community members.
- Root discussions of campus safety in a commitment to equity for all students, workers, and community members.
Addressing the economic crisis
We are concerned that calls for austerity are likely to disproportionately affect the women and BIPOC people who fill the ranks of support staff and job-insecure non-tenure-track faculty. Jobs for our most vulnerable employees should be prioritized over athletics, high administrative salaries and new building plans. Calls for austerity must not be used as excuses for the continued institutional marginalization of the scholarship and teaching that focus on BIPOC communities. University administrations must commit to an ethical economic plan, developed with the participation of all workers.
- Maintain jobs and wages for the most economically vulnerable. No mandatory furloughs, layoffs or firings during the pandemic.
- Commit to hiring more BIPOC faculty, staff, and campus workers to help alleviate the job crisis in vulnerable communities.
- Build an antiracist and decolonizing curriculum with concrete material investments in ethnic studies, including hiring and retaining more ethnic studies faculty.
- Practice shared governance, including faculty, unions, and other stakeholders in decision-making.
- Commit to working with state and federal policy leaders to return to robust public funding for higher education, moving away from the privatizing model that relies on student tuition and the increasing debt burden that is at least partially responsible for low enrollments in minority communities.
Resisting racialized policing
In the midst of calls for austerity that increase burdens and risks for BIPOC workers (including faculty), budget allocations for campus police apparently remain untouched. We are concerned—in the context of white nationalist and white supremacist violence in and around campuses, including violent assaults, car attacks against protestors, and racist and pro-fascist flyers—that racial disparities exacerbated by the COVID crisis will converge with racist policing. Most university administrations have not clarified how public health protocols will be enforced on campus. Universities should follow well-established expert guidelines developed by public health professionals. While we support digital and other forms of contact tracing as tools useful for deterring the spread of COVID, we want to be sure such programs are administered so as to not target certain communities for greater surveillance and social control. Without careful planning that includes voices from across the community, enforcement of COVID-based public health protocols may reify racial disparities and even inflict racist violence against our BIPOC students, workers, and community members.
- Redeploy campus safety budgets toward funding unarmed safety workers and other initiatives that would benefit the most vulnerable on our campuses, especially the safety and wellbeing of BIPOC members of campus.
- Terminate relationships with private security companies and companies that provide support to policing, like Amazon and Palantir.
- Form and fund Campus Public Safety committees to recognize, assess, and address the unequal effects of COVID, especially on BIPOC.
Supporting international students
The Trump administration is now using ICE and the pandemic to advance its anti-immigrant agenda through the university. In early July, ICE threatened international students (the majority of them people of color) with deportation if they took all their fall courses online—a further offense to students from China and other Asian countries who have already been facing significant upticks in racism and hate crimes. Thanks to grassroots organizing and a successful legal effort by universities and states, ICE rolled back that order. Most recently, a new order prohibited newly admitted international students from attending US universities if they take a fully online course of study. These ICE orders are part of an increasing number of federal restrictions levied against immigrants and asylum seekers. State actions and xenophobic rhetorics that devalue and endanger the lives of immigrants and international visitors (such as Trump’s insistance on the term “Chinese flu”) have resulted in additional instances of violence against Asian and Asian-American people, compounding an existing racial crisis.
- Make our campuses “Sanctuary” campuses: refuse to cooperate with ICE or government entities that seek to deport or strip away the visa statuses of international students.
- Protect the rights of international students by guaranteeing them access to courses they need, housing, health care, and medical and legal support.
In short, our institutions must work intentionally and actively to dismantle institutional racism. We unite in the demands above as faculty from universities across the country, committed—in the words of the American Association of University Professors—“to addressing systemic racism and working toward racial justice in colleges and universities, in keeping with our mission to ensure higher education’s contribution to the common good.”
The Midwest Faculty Coalition is a coalition of American Association of University Professors chapters and other faculty organizations representing faculty from universities across the Midwest.
Chapters and faculty organizations
- AAUP Ohio University
- AAUP College of Saint Benedict & Saint John’s University
- AAUP DePaul University
- AAUP Columbus State University
- AAUP University of Iowa
- UIC United Faculty Local 6456, AAUP, IFT, AFT
- AAUP Purdue Fort Wayne
- AAUP School of the Art Institute of Chicago
- AAUP Northwestern University
- AAUP Indiana University, South Bend
- AAUP Wright State University
- AAUP Miami University
- AAUP George Mason University
- AAUP at University of Nebraska Lincoln
- AAUP University of Cincinnati
- AAUP Boston College
- Northeastern Illinois University, University Professionals of Illinois–UPI 4100
- AAUP Indiana University Bloomington
- AAUP John Carroll University
- AAUP Western Michigan University
- AAUP Saint Joseph’s University (Philadelphia)
- AAUP Purdue-West Lafayette Executive Committee
- AAUP St. Bonaventure University
- AAUP New York University
- AAUP Purdue University Northwest
- AAUP New York State Conference
- AAUP Ohio Conference
- AAUP Indiana Conference