First faculty meeting of 2020-21 academic year discusses ongoing faculty concerns, Covid updates and more

DePauls+Lincoln+Park+campus.

Eric Henry

DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus.

Budget cuts, ongoing pay freezes and administrative disregard were priority discussion areas at the first faculty council meeting of the academic year. The meeting also covered a range of topics including updates on DePaul’s Covid-19 efforts.

DePaul’s vaccination efforts have been largely successful, with just 40 total students noncompliant, according to DePaul according to Caryn Chaden, associate provost for student success and accreditation. Chaden provided additional updates on the status of vaccinated DePaul students during the year’s first Faculty Council meeting, held on Sept. 15.

According to Chaden, as of Sept. 14, there are 21,783 students enrolled at DePaul and 99.23 percent of them are compliant with the school’s Covid-19 guidelines.

Forty students failed to submit vaccination documentation or an exemption waiver, and 127 students have only been partially vaccinated — receiving just one dose of the vaccine after the submission deadline.

A total of 510 students received an exemption waiver, accounting for 2.35 percent of exemptions — double the normal number of vaccination exemptions.

Chaden also mentioned the recent governor’s order, which mandates school personnel to be at least partially vaccinated.

“If you have guest speakers — even if they’re not getting paid — anybody who provides a service to your class has to show documentation of vaccination,” Chaden said.

If faculty or staff do not comply with the governor’s order and submit proof of vaccination by the extended deadline, repercussions include no paid leave. Similarly, non-compliant students will automatically be dropped from any in person classes.

Ellen Fingado, from the Dean of Students office, explained a change in how students report absences, which normally go through their office. Instead, students should coordinate any absences with their professors directly in order to avoid high volumes of absences considering the ongoing pandemic.

Additionally, Fingado mentioned that many students may not be able to get the necessary medical documentation for Covid-19.

Rev. Guillermo Campuzano proposed implementing a presidential sustainability committee, an initiative that promotes solutions to social and environmental justice. If approved, the sustainability committee would consist of six faculty, four staff and two students.

Also during the meeting, attendees discussed ongoing communication issues.

Soltero said DePaul’s contract with third-party vendors that help facilitate Covid-19 tracing and the vaccination validation process was another instance of decision making being made with zero input from faculty and staff.

“There are all kinds of issues that we need to address in relation to all these tech platforms that are problematic on many levels, including privacy issues,” Soltero said. “One of the things that we had discussed several times is that it would be really good to have faculty voices, particularly department chair voices, at the table and other faculty at the table before [information services] make decisions so that we can provide input.”

Provost Salma Ghanem responded saying that she is committed to ensuring more faculty input.

“We’ve been meeting to start talking about how we can ensure governance in [information service] type decisions, which kind of have gone by the wayside to a certain extent,” Ghanem said. “We’re in the process of revisiting that in general.”

Issues over shared governance continued to be at the forefront of Faculty Council’s work during the past year. In May 2021, President A. Gabriel Esteban and the Board of Trustees made budget cuts without consulting faculty representatives.

Despite frustrations over the lack of shared governance and faculty input, Soltero outlined efforts over the summer that make her optimistic for the future.

“Faculty council leadership this summer has already met multiple times with the leadership of Staff Council and the leadership of the Student Government Association and we plan to continue to strengthen the partnership,” Soltero said.

“We also have many opportunities to uplift the morale, to rebuild the trust, to restore the principles of shared governance that have been eroded, and all of this we need to do in collaboration with the administration and … also with staff and students,” Soltero added.