Resolution on Allowing University of Arkansas Employees the Choice to Work Remotely
Whereas, the Covid-19 global pandemic has killed at least 6,704 Arkansans, including 400 in Washington County, since the late winter of 2020 (“Tracking Coronavirus in Arkansas: Latest Map and Case Count,” The New York Times, link updates periodically);
Whereas, Covid-19 has infected at least 436,000 Arkansans, including more than 38,000 in Washington County (ibid.);
Whereas, in the week starting August 15, more Arkansans were in the hospital than at any time since the pandemic began (ibid.);
Whereas, the Delta Variant of Covid-19 that is the dominant variant in Arkansas releases 1260 times more viral particles than earlier variants (“Northwest Arkansas Health Officials Weigh In on Breakthrough Cases of Covid-19,” Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Aug. 15, 2021);
Whereas, “breakthrough infections” among fully vaccinated account for 15% of the cases in Arkansas (ibid.);
Whereas, on July 30, 2021, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson declared “a statewide state of disaster emergency related to public health, resulting from the catastrophic statewide impact of the Delta Variant of COVID-19 on the healthcare system of Arkansas” (Executive Order to Declare a Statewide Public Health Emergency for the Purpose of Meeting and Mitigating the Impact of COVID-19, 21-14, July 29, 2021, Office of Gov. Asa Hutchinson);
Whereas, the University of Arkansas is prohibited from requiring students and employees to receive one of the three readily available and safe Covid-19 vaccines, even though vaccines have been required in the past (most recently MMR in the winter of 2019-2020) and Governor Hutchinson has declared that widespread vaccination is the best way to mitigate the effects of Covid-19;
Whereas, University of Arkansas faculty and staff have demonstrated the ability to advance the university’s primary missions of research and education while working remotely;
Whereas, certain employees of the University of Arkansas fall into high-risk mortality categories if they become infected with Covid-19;
Whereas, certain employees are the primary caregivers of children under 12, who are ineligible for vaccinations, and other high-risk groups;
Whereas, the University of Arkansas’s efforts to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 on campus have been inadequate:
- The vaccine incentive program for students was not launched until August 11, well after the date necessary for the vaccine to take full effect by the August 23 start of classes, and does not require participants to vaccinate until the eve of the September 1 drawing (COVID-19 Vaccination Incentives, UA Pat Walker Health Center);
- Even though a study published by the Centers for Disease Control found that the Greek Life Rush in the fall of 2020 was a major spreader of the virus on the University of Arkansas campus, the University has allowed sorority and fraternity Rush to take place this year during a governor-declared state public health emergency (“Participation in Fraternity and Sorority Activities and the Spread of COVID-19 Among Residential University Communities — Arkansas, August 21–September 5, 2020,” CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Jan. 8, 2021, and “CDC Study Suggests Virus Fueled by Greek Life at UA,” Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Jan. 8, 2021);
- The University is allowing the Bikes, Blues and BBQ organization to hold a motorcycle rally on campus that in recent years has brought in 200,000 to 250,000 visitors (“Baum-Walker Stadium to Host Bikes, Blues & BBQ Main Stage – Main Stage Relocates to UA Stadium,” Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Aug. 16 2021, and “Police Release Stats for 2019 Bikes, Blues & BBQ Motorcycle Rally,” Fayetteville Flyer, Sept. 30, 2019).
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that, since the University of Arkansas has not taken common-sense steps to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 on campus and protect its employees, UA-Fayetteville Education Association / Local 965 supports employee choice in continuing to work remotely — be they faculty or staff — out of overwhelming concern for their personal well-being;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the university require mandatory Covid-19 testing for students who take part in labs, studios or seminars that last longer 120 minutes per session.
This resolution was approved at the Aug. 19, 2021, general membership meeting of UA-Fayetteville Education Association / Local 965. Members present in a quorum voted unanimously for the topic points, then compiled by Local officers.