In light of the 2020 fall plan titled “Return of Pirate Nation,” a petition has circulated among East Carolina University’s faculty and staff in an effort to address safety concerns in the fall.
The petition was created and titled “East Carolina University Petition to Support a Safe Reopening.” As of June 26, the petition has obtained 299 faculty signatures.
The petition said the undersigned faculty at ECU affirms interest in promoting the safety of all ECU students and employees. It said there are concerns about the limited input faculty, staff and graduate employees have on decisions related to safety.
“This includes the forthcoming guidance from university administration regarding a range of pressing issues related to the provision of instruction and steps to protect the safety of all ECU students and employees,” the petition said.
Several proposals are listed throughout the petition in regards to health concerns, the event of instructors falling ill, Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, campus-provided COVID testing and weekly public status reports. The full petition can be found here.
Assistant geography professor Beth Bee said in an email statement the petition was developed in consultation with multiple faculty members from across campus, including members of faculty leadership. She said they wish to remain anonymous.
“The petition should also not be seen as an affront to the efforts of the committees that have dedicated so much time to developing the existing guidelines,” Bee said in her statement.
The petition does not capture all the concerns faculty, staff and students have, but it is a way to participate in a more democratic process, according to Bee. She said in her statement it's a way to push administration to include basic and simple protections which have not yet been addressed.
Bee said ECU is not the only university campus to petition for what is being asked. She said University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, UNC Charlotte, Appalachian State University, North Carolina State University and others across the country have developed similar petitions.
“Budgets are tighter than ever, but lives are also on the line,” Bee said in her statement.
Interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson said he read the petition and he does not find it objectionable. He said the points expressed are more than reasonable and he believes the university will continue to work to do what the petition has listed.
Mitchelson said he has received personal emails from faculty and thinks many of them feel much better after communication was put in place that followed the two town hall meetings ECU hosted.
“The feelings are strong and emotions are running high and so I think we’ve done some good in the last few days to sort of calm that down,” Mitchelson said.
He said there will be another town hall meeting on July 1 to address more questions and the unanswered questions from the first two on June 23 and June 24. He said there are still many questions to be addressed as uncertainty for the fall remains among most.
Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Virginia Hardy said Mitchelson was able to provide some response to the concerns listed in the petition during the second town hall meeting, which was directed toward ECU employees.
Hardy said for individuals who were unable to attend, the meeting was recorded and can be found on the ECU News Services website. She said questions and comments are welcome from any individual who still expresses concern.
“As we are making these plans, we are doing so with health and safety at the forefront of all of those decisions,” Hardy said.
There were eight working groups who were given different focuses in developing the plan to return in the fall, according to Hardy. She said each of those groups had representation from faculty and staff.