Group concerned over A&S restructuring Tuesday, Sep 13 2022 

By Joe Wilson —

The U of L Chapter of the United Campus Workers of Kentucky (UCW) held a town hall meeting Sept. 9 to voice concern over Interim Provost Gerry Bradley’s plan to restructure the College of Arts and Sciences. About 15 members attended.

The town hall comes after Bradley first announced the restructuring of A&S during a faculty assembly call in January 2022. In March, Bradley established the A&S Strategic Planning Committee, a task force of 19 members that has been meeting to organize the changes to the college.

Since the announcement, confusion has hung over the provost’s restructuring plans. 

Earlier last week, the UCW began circulating a public letter addressed to the university. Their demands include:

  • No staffing, instructional, or departmental cuts.
  • No departments be combined. 
  • If budgetary cuts are made, they should cut upper executive salaries, unnecessary capital projects, and abundant spending on athletics.

According to Elise Franklin, an assistant professor of European history and UCW leader who presented the town hall: “The goal of the town hall was to bring our members and interested community members up to speed about what has been happening with the restructuring over the course of the summer and to think through the internal logic that U of L was using in order to justify the restructuring and to pose the question: Do we follow this logic?”

UCW members are concerned an interim administration is embarking on the restructuring. Members say they worry that the temporary nature of the administration might lead to a rushed restructuring.

According to Franklin, “The fact that the provost wants to achieve this restructuring, or to at least have an answer on his questions posed about restructuring before December, says to me: What’s the rush? If we’re to embark on a reconsideration of the structure of A&S, and no one here is arguing that A&S is working perfectly, then this takes time.”

During the town hall, Franklin discussed concern restructuring could lead to department cuts. Franklin said, “We have not heard from the provost or the committee about any potential shutting of departments, so I don’t want to create alarm, but I do think it is important to raise the question of what protections do we all have as workers across departments that our jobs are safe.”

The Louisville Cardinal also spoke with Michael Cunningham, a professor of Communication who serves on the A&S Strategic Planning Committee, to learn more about the committee’s discussions. “We have not talked about combining departments, now what we have talked about is the idea of hiring divisional directors who will work specifically on increasing student credit hours, increasing programs, increasing collaboration across departments, interdisciplinary course, things like that.”

Cunningham emphasized there have been no proposals to combine or eliminate departments in the committee’s meetings.

Cunningham also hopes the committee will share more of its deliberations with the university community in the future. “We don’t have a lot to announce yet. We’re still working. There are just lots of moving parts.”

The A&S Restructuring Committee will continue to meet and discuss their plans through the end of the semester. The committee plans to vote on proposals and hold town halls with the public in the next semester.

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College of A&S Strategic Planning Committee begins following faculty backlash Sunday, Mar 6 2022 

By Joe Wilson — 

Interim Provost Gerry Bradley is acting on his promise to restructure the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S). Bradley announced on Feb. 28 that the A&S Strategic Planning Committee would begin meeting this week. The first meeting took place Mar. 4. 

The A&S Strategic Planning Committee is a new task force intended to plan and implement structural changes to the College of Arts and Sciences. While the objectives of the committee are still unclear, members plan to talk through their ideas of reorganizing A&S. After these preliminary discussions, the committee will circulate a report of the proposed changes to A&S Faculty. The committee hopes to present its final plan to the upcoming Faculty Assembly meeting.

The announcement included the names of the A&S faculty members who have been chosen to serve on the committee:

  • Avery Kolers – College elected faculty member 
  • Natalie Polzer – College elected faculty member 
  • Glynis Ridley – College elected faculty member 
  • Aaron Rollins – College elected faculty member 
  • David Schultz – College elected faculty member 
  • Matthew Church – College elected staff member  
  • Danielle Dolan – College elected staff member 
  • Craig Grapperhaus – Dean appointed faculty member 
  • Latricia Best – Dean appointed faculty member 
  • Edna Ross – Dean appointed faculty member  
  • Juli Wagner – Dean appointed staff member 
  • Brandon McCormack – Provost appointed faculty member 
  • Karen Freberg – Provost appointed faculty member 
  • Ann Hall – Provost appointed faculty member 
  • Rick Graycarek – Provost appointed staff member 
  • David Owen – Ex officio member 
  • Douglas Craddock – Ex officio member 
  • Sarah Lopez – Ex officio member 
  • Ian Norris – Ex officio member 

The selection of committee members comes roughly a month after Bradley first announced the creation of the A&S Strategic Planning Committee. Elections were originally scheduled to occur on Feb. 3. However, after A&S faculty balked at the rapid election process the provost delayed the formation of the committee until now.

Bradley’s efforts to restructure A&S have generated controversy among faculty and staff. Several A&S faculty members have expressed fears that the restructure will result in the reduction of departments in the college. 

Outside organizations have also expressed concerns over the new committee. The United Campus Workers of Kentucky (UCW), a group that represents campus workers from across the state, sent out an open letter that criticized the committee. In the letter, UCW demanded that there be no staffing, instructional or departmental cuts as part of the restructuring. UCW also demanded that departments not be combined, additional funding is provided to A&S and that if cuts must be made, they should be made first to upper executive salaries and unnecessary capital projects.

The letter read in part, “We call upon the UofL community, including faculty, staff, students, and other community members who have an interest in maintaining a vibrant and diverse community at UofL, to join us in demanding that restructuring efforts prioritize the stability of jobs, workloads, and well-being of current staff and faculty. This will translate into a more resilient employee base that can better serve our students, in keeping with the Cardinal Community of Care and Accountability principles.”

The provost’s office plans to send updates regarding the committee’s progress in the coming weeks.

Logo Courtesy // U of L College of Arts and Sciences

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Protestors rally at Grawemeyer Hall against COVID-19 policy Friday, Jan 21 2022 

By Joe Wilson — 

On Jan. 20, a group of protesters gathered outside Grawemeyer Hall to denounce U of L’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and demand changes in the school’s policy.

The demonstration, called “Speak Out for Health and Safety at the University of Louisville,” was planned by the United Campus Workers of Kentucky, a group of campus workers from across the state. Among their demands is that instructors and employees be provided the flexibility to move their courses and work online and to offer hazard pay to frontline staff.

The organization’s criticism of the administration comes after U of L Interim President Lori Gonzalez announced the university’s course delivery policy, which stipulates that in-person courses cannot be conducted virtually. The only exception includes faculty who need to isolate due to COVID-19 infection or exposure. The university defends the policy, citing the 91% vaccination rate among students, staff and faculty.

However, U of L’s response has come under scrutiny amid the latest surge of COVID-19 cases from the highly-transmissible Omicron variant. With COVID-19 infections at record highs, the UCW has demanded that the university provide more flexibility to students and faculty who may want to attend classes virtually due to health concerns.

The protest came following repeated efforts by the UCW to persuade the university to change its policy. Last week, the group circulated a petition titled ‘Keep all Cardinals Safe!’ that has garnered over 1,700 signatures.

As students, faculty and staff joined the UCW on the steps of Grawemeyer Hall, several speakers questioned whether it was equitable to compel students and faculty to attend in-person classes amid the many hardships of the pandemic.

The protest gathered attention from Democrat Representative Attica Scott, who represents House District 41 in the Kentucky General Assembly. Scott provided a written statement which was read aloud by her daughter, U of L student Ashanti Scott:

“I am the mom of a University of Louisville student. My daughter deserves better than to try to pursue her education in fear. Her campus should be a place that prioritizes the health and safety of everyone. I stand with the United Campus Workers as they call on President Gonzalez to take COVID-19 and the Omicron variant seriously.”

Later in the afternoon, protestors went inside Grawemeyer Hall to express their demands to Gonzalez during a meeting with the Board of Trustees. When the protesters entered the meeting room, many noticed that some members of the board were attending the meeting virtually. “They get to be online, and we can’t,” one protester noted.

Nathan Schimpf, a graduate assistant speaking on behalf of the protesters, expressed the group’s grievances to the board of trustees. “We submitted our petition to President Gonzalez last Wednesday, January 12. Since then there has been no acknowledgement of the concerns and demands of the 1,700 university community members who have signed it, no acknowledgement of the university working toward these points and no acknowledgement that students and workers deserve their basic need of safety met at this time,” he said.

In response, Gonzalez said that while the university does not take this issue lightly, the protesters’ demands were “inconsistent” with the data she’s seen regarding COVID-19.

The meeting with the board of trustees proceeded, and the protesters were dismissed from Grawemeyer Hall about five minutes into the meeting.

Photo by Anthony Riley // The Louisville Cardinal

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Immunocompromised student speaks out against course delivery policy Sunday, Jan 16 2022 

By Madelin Shelton — 

A psychology graduate student at U of L wants flexibility in the university’s course delivery policy and her message has gone viral.

Madison Shannon was hospitalized from Jan. 9 to Jan. 15 with complications from an open-heart surgery she underwent Dec. 17.

Shannon posted an email correspondence with U of L Interim President Lori Gonzalez to her Instagram and Facebook pages, and she said it has been shared over 200 times and has received more than 1,900 likes.

She discussed her experience post-surgery. “It was a very scary experience, and it was overwhelming as well. I was delirious,” she said. Shannon thought she was going to die from the complications.

Shannon describes herself as medically complex. She was born with aortic stenosis, a congenital heart defect which results in reduced or blocked blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. She also has Turner syndrome, a rare chromosomal disorder that affects only females in which one of the X chromosomes is missing or partially missing. Shannon has had three open-heart surgeries.

On Jan. 9, Shannon sent an email to Gonzalez in response to a U of L update reiterating the university’s decision to continue the Spring semester in-person.

Shannon’s email criticized the university’s decision regarding its course delivery policy. “The way that the university has handle the COVID situation has been completely disappointing and inaccessible. I understand being concerned about academic performance and mental well-being of students, but some of the students, faculty, and staff are concerned about our livelihood,” she said.

“I am so sorry to hear about you health issue. I wish you a quick recovery. Take care,” Gonzalez responded.

Shannon was deeply disappointed by Gonzalez’s response. “It felt like ‘okay that’s your problem, that’s not a problem as a university.’ Whereas I feel like it is a university problem. A lot of people expect young 20-year-olds and teenagers to be relatively healthy but that’s not always the case and, you know, I’m the perfect example of that,” she said. “I feel like we’re not being seen as people, we’re not being seen at all honestly.”

In defending the course delivery policy, the university has cited the 91 percent vaccination rate of the U of L community, but Shannon argues that is not enough.

She is fully vaccinated, but not boosted because of the issues it could pose for her currently weakened immune system. Her doctors are also concerned about the toll COVID-19 would have on her body even with being fully vaccinated, especially three weeks post-op from major surgery.

Shannon acknowledged that mental health and academic performance are important considerations, but she believes there are more crucial factors to consider. “Those are important, but it doesn’t just affect everyone that little. It affects people in much bigger ways, like my livelihood. I would prefer to live.”

Shannon has received permission to conduct her classes virtually until February given her current health situation and the need for a mandated quarantine period post-hospital stay. However, to her understanding she is expected to attend class in-person after that point.

Shannon belongs to the United Campus Workers, a group composed of campus workers from across Kentucky. Along with United Campus Workers, Shannon is asking for the option of online instruction for both faculty and students and more stringent COVID-19 prevention strategies. The organization created a petition for these initiatives that has amassed over 1,500 signatures.

The Louisville Cardinal reached out to the university for further comment and none was given.

Photo Courtesy // Madison Shannon

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Dean Owen indicates no change in course delivery policy Wednesday, Jan 12 2022 

By Madelin Shelton — 

College of Arts and Sciences Interim Dean David Owen responded to the uproar from faculty over the university’s policy of mandated in-person courses and reaffirmed the university’s stance.

After U of L Interim President Lori Gonzalez sent out an announcement to the entire university community informing them that the semester would be conducted as originally planned for both in-person and virtual courses, Owen sent out a reminder on Jan. 7 to A&S faculty reminding them to conduct courses how they were described in the Schedule of Courses.

A&S faculty began voicing their frustrations to the dean in an email chain over the weekend.

Owen sent a note to A&S department chairs on Sunday, Jan. 9. “I told them it was their responsibility to make sure these courses were taught as they were advertised,” Owen said. He said he expected faculty to abide by university policy, and failure to follow said policy could result in accountability, including disciplinary action.

Some of the deans and faculty viewed this as Owen threatening the faculty with punishment if they failed to teach the courses through their original method. He acknowledged that some individuals perceived this note as a threat, but Owen claims he was simply referring to the expectation that faculty abide by university policy.

Faculty complained the policy is inflexible for individuals who are, for example, vaccinated themselves but have young children at home who are unable to get one. When asked about this type of specific circumstance, Owen referenced U of L’s ability to maintain face-to-face courses throughout the pandemic the last year by implementing health protocols like masking and social distancing. He also mentioned the university’s vaccination rate of over 90 percent.

“Nothing has changed really in this occurrence,” he said. “You know, it’s a particular spike of a new variant but we’ve dealt with spikes in variants before while remaining on campus.”

He continued, “If faculty or staff have particular health concerns, whether it’s with their own health or health of family members in their household, whether they’re children or parents that might be living with them or somebody who’s immunocompromised, we have a family medical leave policy that can account for that. Folks have applied for that in those circumstances.” Faculty are not permitted to teach, even virtually, should they choose a family medical leave option.

Owen said the university crafts policy that prioritizes equity and accounts for all faculty, staff and students. However, some individuals have criticized this policy as detracting from equity. Dr. Tracy K’Meyer, a Professor of History at U of L, spoke on this point.

“In the dean’s note, he referenced treating everybody equitably. Part of it is that’s kind of a misuse of the term equitably. Equity doesn’t mean treating everybody the same, it means treating people based on their own circumstances.”

More than just faculty have spoken out against the university’s policy. A petition opposing it sponsored by the U of L chapter of United Campus Workers has over 1,500 signatures from faculty, staff, students and other community members.

The U of L chapter of the American Association of University Professors and the College of A&S Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee have released statements in opposition to the policy.

Owen did clarify that faculty were never given the autonomy throughout the pandemic to teach courses in a way that diverged from the chosen method listed in the original Schedule of Courses, unless they were exposed to or tested positive for COVID-19 and temporarily needed to move instruction online. During periods when all courses were taught virtually due to the pandemic, it was a university-wide policy.

When asked if the university planned on changing its policy in response to the significant pushback it has received, Owen said “My understanding is there is no intention to change the policy at the university level and that is what I will follow.” However, he did mention that President Gonzalez and her team were constantly monitoring the ever-evolving circumstances of the pandemic and could change policy when deemed necessary.

Photo Courtesy // University of Louisville

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