Despite vacated residence halls and a transition to online classes, Montclair State University will still be open after spring break. Even though these changes have been made, staff are still being required to show up and work.
Rich Wolfson, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 1904 Union, is not satisfied with the way this situation is currently being handled by administration.
“Local 1904 is working hard to get the administration to adopt policies and objectives that not only assure our students success but also assure the health and safety of our members,” Wolfson said. “The current policies are particularly onerous for professional staff, librarians, student workers and hourly workers in food service and facilities.”
As announced in a campus-wide email on Wednesday, March 18, there are two new cases of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) on campus. Both cases are employees who were last on campus Friday, March 6 and Thursday, March 12. They are now at home recovering.
Wolfson explains that the AFT does not believe the university administration has given enough information to faculty and staff concerning the return to campus next week.
“Additionally, we feel that at this moment in time, the administration has not communicated effectively to the community assuring that their primary goal is our safety and making decisions accordingly,” Wolfson said.
The local unions are urging Montclair State to send home as many faculty and staff as possible. Mary Wallace, the president for the Adjunct Local 6025, is concerned for the well-being of the staff.
“I am advising the adjunct professors to make library assignments that are remote access only so that the library can be closed and librarians work from home,” Wallace said.
According to an email from the Office of the Provost sent out Thursday, March 19, librarians will be working remotely. Students, faculty and staff will continue to have access to library resources online, including media streaming and consultations with librarians through chat, email or text.
Gov. Phil Murphy mandated the closure of all municipal, county and state public libraries on Saturday, March 21. This includes libraries and computer labs at private and higher education institutions.
Currently, the library remains open as a study center with the tables and chairs rearranged to encourage social distancing. Food services also remains open with “grab and go” options available to students.
“This is an unprecedented occurrence but I believe that students and faculty together are committed to maintaining the best quality education possible,” Wallace said. “First and foremost, however, must be the health concerns of all involved.”
President Susan Cole explained that there are many staff members that the university relies on during this complex situation.
“In order to offer the online programming there are people who are going to be running the [information technology] operations that are critical in order for all of our people to be able to do the work that they do,” Cole said. “There are people throughout this university that are going to have to do things to keep us all up and running.”
There is still discussion among administration regarding refunds and procedures in the event that the campus closes completely.
“Rest assured the faculty are working hard preparing to come back from spring break in an entirely virtual classroom environment,” Wolfson said. “Our students will finish those classes successfully. Students will graduate on time even if the commencement celebration is postponed.”
Contributions to this article made by Adrianna Caraballo