OU’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors gave the university a failing grade when evaluating its response to the group’s call for strengthened COVID-19 protocols.
In an Aug. 11 open letter, OU-AAUP published a series of demands for “common-sense policies.” In a Tuesday press release, the group evaluated the university’s progress in meeting these requests, rating each on a scale from one to five.
In its open letter, the group called for OU to publicize a legal rebuttal to laws preventing mask mandates, add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required immunizations and create policies that ensure a vaccinated campus community. They also called for the university to enact a mandatory mask mandate in all indoor public spaces, whenever the community transmission rate is rated substantial or high by the CDC.
According to the CDC, Cleveland County currently has a high community transmission rate.
The group also demanded the university grant hazard pay to compensate employees for using home utilities to complete remote work or working on campus under hazardous conditions and finally create and publicize a pandemic plan, according to the release.
In its Tuesday release, OU-AAUP gave the university a 1.0 rating on each of these demands.
Demands to allow all workers and students to complete their activities remotely, to the extent that it is possible, and to engage in promotion vaccination, as recommended by the CDC’s Considerations for Institutions of Higher Education, received a 2.0 on the scale according to the release.
“It's important to … focus on the key points OU needs to do,” OU-AAUP president Michael Givel said. “The report card is what is offering attention to the important issues at hand regarding faculty staff and student health and safety.”
According to the release, based on these scores, OU’s received an early semester grade of an F+.
“The decision makers at the University of Oklahoma want to have it both ways,” the release read. “They want to appear to be doing the right thing when it comes to scientifically backed COVID-19 mitigation strategies. But they also appear to want to please certain donors, politicians, parents, and others who want an ‘in-class experience’ without 100% indoor masking and COVID-19 vaccination requirements as is strongly recommended by the CDC. Students, faculty, and staff need clear, coherent guidance from university leaders as we try to survive one of the biggest public health crises of the past century.”
Givel said the number of demands not yet met surprised him.
“It's pretty astounding,” Givel said. “These demands are reasonable and common sense, they're based on CDC guidelines to safety. Five of them (have) not even been addressed, at least publicly, and two of them that have been addressed have been done in a way that needs a lot of improvement.”
A university spokesperson said in a statement promoting community health remains "a top priority." Administrators continue to work closely with Faculty and Staff Executive Committees, and mitigation strategies "within the scope fo the law" have been implemented.
The university is also "closely monitoring" COVID-19 cases in the state and will be careful to make "necessary changes" to protocols.
The OU-AAUP wrote in the release that with proper effort and due diligence, OU can raise their grade substantially on COVID-19 workplace safety to a high passing grade.
“The semester’s young, and we encourage the University of Oklahoma to work hard, and hopefully we'll see some really high grades coming in the future,” Givel said.
This article was updated at 11:56 a.m. Monday, Sept. 13, to include university comment.