Faculty Express Dissatisfaction with Reopening Rollout

Political+science+professor+Melissa+Mouritsen+%28far+left%29+speaking+to+COD+Board+of+Trustees+in+June.

Political science professor Melissa Mouritsen (far left) speaking to COD Board of Trustees in June.

Adrian Martinez-De La Cruz, Staff Writer

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As the College of DuPage continues a slow march toward a full, post-pandemic reopening, faculty members are expressing dissatisfaction with the administration’s process and lack of response to concerns of those who may not be able to return to campus physically. 

Political science professor Melissa Mouritsen spoke during the public comments portion of a recent COD Board of Trustees meeting. She expressed her dissatisfaction with the administration’s rollout of the college’s reopening process and their messaging on how they perceive the faculty’s union, College of DuPage Faculty Association (CODFA). 

Melissa Mouritsen is a full-time faculty member at COD and teaches political science (photo courtesy of COD).

“We have asked for assurances that individuals who cannot return are protected, and instead were told to fill out a form and submit to HR,” Mouritsen said at the June 24 board of trustees meeting. “Anything beyond that was deemed by the administration as just ‘the union’ trying to keep everyone off-campus. We asked for transparency, and we got insulted.”

In a subsequent interview with The Courier, Mourisen expressed how she and colleagues heard the administration wanted to offer more in-person class offerings but did not communicate those plans effectively with faculty and the union. President Brian Caputo announced via email to faculty on June 16 in-person offerings would increase to at least 50% in the fall semester. 

“I don’t think many people had an issue with it,” Mouritsen said. “It’s just that we were not prepared for it.”

Mouritsen said the union’s insistence on not having faculty members forced back onto campus led to the college’s administration boiling down their issue into a single argument, “almost like a strawman argument.”

A work in progress

David Goldberg, president of CODFA, reiterated what Mouritsen said. He expressed frustration with Caputo rolling out the college’s return-to-campus plans without including him and the rest of the union’s leadership, which he says would have been the proper channel to disseminate those plans. 

David Goldberg teaches political science and is the president of CODFA (photo courtesy of COD).

“It (is not) so much we need veto power,” Goldberg said. “I think it’s courtesy at a college to include the faculty when you’re going to do something that significant.” He believes at times the communication between the administration and faculty has broken down but does not believe it’s by design. 

Goldberg believes there have been mixed messages given by the administration. During the board of trustees meeting, Vice President of Planning & Institutional Effectiveness, Jim Benté, said childcare is not a reason for faculty members to be exempted from returning to campus. According to Goldberg, this is a different message than what faculty were told. 

Moving forward, Goldberg would like to see more clarity and more transparency from the administration in their decision-making process. As for Mouritsen, she would like to see flexibility from the administration in exempting faculty members from returning to campus for medical reasons or other reasons that would prevent them from returning.

Goldberg said he and CODFA Vice President Christine Monnier met with Caputo and had a very strong, positive conversation following the president announcing the college’s return-to-campus plans. 

“We shared our ideas, and I told him what we were unhappy with and what we expect for the future,” says Goldberg. However, he acknowledged communication between both sides “is still a work in progress.”

Administration’s response

The Courier reached out to Caputo but was unable to receive a comment from him. COD News Bureau Manager Jennifer Duda sent this statement via email: 

“The health and safety of our faculty, staff and students has been the focus of various protocols developed by the College of DuPage administration since the onset of the pandemic in spring 2020. With the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine, declining local infection rates and guidance from the Office of the Illinois Governor (now in Phase V) as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COD will offer expanded in-person instruction for fall 2021. The administration is confident in its due diligence as the decision-making process included much discussion and input across multiple constituencies, including faculty leadership.”