Two weeks ago, Labor Radio reported on a January 24th action at the office of UW_Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank, when university unions and the the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Coalition, or the BIPOC Coalition, presented a list of demands to rectify what they said was an inadequate response to student and worker safety regarding the ongoing COVID pandemic. Protesters insisted that the university had had no direct involvement with their groups in crafting its response. Jack Phillips is the chair of the Political Education Committee of the Teaching Assistants Association, the TAA, the union representing graduate student workers at UW Madison, and is in the biomedical engineering program at the university. They took part in the action on the 24th, and they recount what they were told about avenues of involvement in the university’s COVID response.
So Phillips went ahead and joined the committee that they had been directed toward.
In the meantime, the university administration responded to the list of demands that the university unions and the BIPOC Coalition had submitted at the Monday action. The administration addressed the response only to the TAA and not other unions or the BIPOC Coalition. Here is Phillips.
But then Phillips said they got a surprise.
At the time of this interview, Phillips said they had received no further word on this separate graduate committee. According to a communication from Phillips received by us shortly before airtime here, they received a response from the university administration, saying that COVID matters are discussed with the Graduate School Dean’s Advisory Board, a body which pre-dates the pandemic. Phillips expressed curiosity about the history and function of the COVID committee.
So while for now cut out of the university’s own preferred shared governance system, Phillips has continued to keep tabs on COVID data from Public Health Dane County and from what is available from the university. They describe what they found.
Phillips described their worries over possible gaps in the current data collection procedure.
That was Jack Phillips of the TAA and UW-Madison’s Department of Biomedical Engineering. To Phillips’ knowledge, beyond the response to the unions and BIPOC Coalition demands mentioned here, there has been no further direct contact over COVID policy between their union and the university.
Reporting Courtesy of Greg Geboski on Labor Radio
Photo Courtesy of Chris Christian on Flickr