Columbia College instructors hold classes outside amid bargaining with administration

Chicago News

CHICAGO — Despite being a perfect day to hold a theatre class outside, weather was not the reason Columbia College instructors were holding class in Grant Park.

Amid continued struggles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty believe not all classrooms at the downtown Chicago fine arts college are equipped to safely hold classes.

Instructors feel this is the only way to continue instruction and keep themselves safe.

“We’re not going to force our faculty or students into a room that is not safe,” President of Columbia Faculty Union Diana Vallera said.

A quarter of Columbia College classes are currently held in-person, but not all classrooms have the same safety precautions in place.

The college said it has installed UV germicidal irradiation and performed air assessments in rooms where high-exertion activities such as singing take place.

Vallera is calling for the College to take the same precautions in all rooms, or move classes to rooms that have UV germicidal irradiation. She said bargaining has not gone well for teachers yet.

“They sent them an e-mail saying if you don’t return on Monday, we will look to replace you”, Vallera said.

Instructors say they will continue to hold class in the park until the college can reach an agreement with teachers.

“A teacher should have the choice to be safe, and if somebody gets fired for wanting to be safe, that seems very unfair to me,” Adjunct Instructor Laura Sturm said.

Until the teachers and college can reach an agreement, the teachers will continue to hold classes outside with the support of students.

“I think it shows the commitment they have to our safety,” freshman Megan Kaszuk said.

Columbia College released a statement stating their satisfaction with current safety precautions, while elaborating on the precautions the college has taken.

This includes free testing to all campus community members, mandatory face coverings, temperature checks and examination of all of the college’s 135 air handling units.

Faculty hope to reach an agreement with the college by the end of this week.

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