In response to the Penn administration announcement on March 15th of significant policy changes that eliminate indoor masking and other Covid-19 safety measures on our campus, the AAUP–Penn’s Covid Response Task Force and the AAUP–Penn Executive Committee immediately issued a joint statement to express concerns.
We realize that some members of the Penn community may be eager to go “back to normal,” and we sympathize deeply with that wish. But we cannot wish away the recurring risks or the impact of the pandemic on the lives of faculty, grads, students, and staff. Some of us have lost family members to Covid, and many of us currently care for elderly parents. Some of us live with partners or family members who are immunocompromised, or are older or otherwise medically vulnerable ourselves, and a very large number of faculty and staff have children under 5 who are still unable to be vaccinated. A non-trivial proportion of contingent faculty who teach Penn students and an even higher proportion of subcontracted campus workers may not even have employer-provided medical coverage if they get sick while working on our campus; what will Penn do to keep them safe? From the start of the pandemic our chapter has asked the University to prioritize the wellbeing of the most vulnerable in our community. Removing even the most minimal forms of mitigation such as masking in our shared spaces now feels like organized abandonment.
In the interest of our entire community, we urge Penn’s central administration to rethink and reverse these premature policy changes.
The statement was sent to the Interim Provost and Interim President as well as the Faculty Senate Tri-Chairs on March 16th and can be found in full on the AAUP-Penn website.