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For Immediate Release
June 22, 2020

UUP: More protections needed to reopen SUNY campuses

The state’s “Reopening New York” guidelines for reopening colleges and universities in New York state is a crucial starting point, but more must be done to protect students, faculty and staff from COVID-19 on SUNY campuses, according to United University Professions, the union representing faculty and professionals at SUNY state-operated campuses.

UUP President Frederick E. Kowal noted that the state’s recommendations include plans for COVID-19 testing and retesting of students and employees returning to campuses this fall and encourage use of telecommuting to maintain physical distancing.

The state’s recommendations echo many of the minimum standards in UUP’s guidelines to safely reopen campuses, released June 1. However, the state’s guidelines leave to SUNY campuses the final decisions about whether comprehensive testing will occur and whether telecommuting will be used. UUP listed these precautions as mandatory in its reopening guidelines.

“The state’s guidelines for reopening SUNY are on the right track, but I am disappointed that they don’t go farther in mandating comprehensive testing and liberal use of telecommuting,” Kowal said. “I call on the state to ensure that its university system models its guidelines after the same standards the state is recommending that private campuses adopt.”

Kowal pointed to campuses across the country that have announced plans for comprehensive testing as students return to campus this fall, and periodic surveillance testing once classes start. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brown University, Syracuse University and the University of California at San Diego are some of the schools that have testing plans in place.

Kowal said the state and SUNY should fully adopt and embrace the recommended best practices in the state’s guidelines, as well as the requirements in UUP’s safe opening plans.

“SUNY needs to step up to the plate and demonstrate that everything that can be done is being done to ensure that our students, our members, our families, and the communities we live in are safe as campuses reopen,” Kowal said. “We are prepared to be an active partner with SUNY in protecting the safety or our members and our students during this public health crisis. We remain hopeful that SUNY shares the same commitment.”

UUP is the nation's largest higher education union, with more than 42,000 academic and professional faculty and retirees. UUP members work at 29 New York state-operated campuses, including SUNY’s public teaching hospitals and health science centers in Brooklyn, Long Island and Syracuse. It is an affiliate of NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the AFL-CIO.

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