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Time To Get Staff Involved In Deciding About COVID-19 Response

Wholesale changes to modes of delivery must not be made without consulting staff and students, says the Tertiary Education Union | Te Hautū Kahurangi.

Today both Auckland and Massey Universities have announced that in-person teaching and assessment are optional for learners.

TEU National President, Michael Gilchrist, says “These are extraordinary times and the wellbeing of staff and learners is crucial. However, Massey and Auckland are making changes that are likely to involve huge additional workload demands on teaching and administrative staff – we will not accept that such edicts can be issued without consulting staff to the greatest extent possible under these circumstances.”

“We are advising members that it is especially important that their workloads be reasonable, equitable and safe at this time. Consultation is a vital part of that imperative – and without it staff may be forced to take other steps to ensure their wellbeing.”

‘More broadly, we believe the correct approach from institutions should be to follow the guidance of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health as to new risks and whether any additional steps are required for staff and student safety. To date the Ministry of Education has said that it should be business as usual for all educational institutions, including universities, barring any specific outbreaks. We don’t believe that either institutions or staff unions should be second-guessing this expert guidance – especially given that it is informed by advice from many of our members.’

Gilchrist notes the announcement today by Victoria University calling for institutions to be guided by Ministry of Health advice, neither moving in advance or arrears of that advice – and applauds their offer of free study from the start of Trimester 2 for domestic students who have been impacted by COVID-19.

All these developments – and the range of responses now emerging – only serve to underline the need for a nationally co-ordinated and consistent approach on the part of tertiary education institutions to COVID -19. We have written again to the Tertiary Education Commission asking them to facilitate a meeting of all concerned to develop such an approach.

TEU members have been discussing how to ensure staff and student well-being, and how to be supportive in ways that ensure learning continues.

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