WIUM Tristates Public Radio

NIU Faculty Rally for More Campus COVID-19 Protections

Aug 16, 2021

Northern Illinois University welcomes students back to campus this week, but faculty are still concerned over a lack of certain safety policies for the coming school year.

Faculty rallied on Friday (August 13) outside the school’s Altgeld Hall, the building which houses the office of NIU President Lisa Freeman and other top administrators.

The NIU faculty unions are asking the university to guarantee that classes will have the ability to move to remote learning if there’s a severe local COVID-19 outbreak.

Keith Nyquist teaches business communication and is president of the union representing non-tenured NIU faculty.

“Currently there are a lot of face-to-face classes scheduled. There's also a lot of online classes and a mix of the two,” he said. “What we're looking for is to have the guarantee and the ability to make sure that should the Delta variant get worse over a certain threshold that we'd be able to change the way that we teach the class.”

Kerry Ferris is an associate professor of sociology and president of the tenure-track faculty union.

“We are also looking for the ability of certain faculty who may have medical vulnerabilities or be unable to be vaccinated, to be able to choose to teach remotely no matter what the situation is,” she said.

The university currently requires indoor masking, regardless of vaccination status, based on county-level metrics. Ferris and the faculty union are asking for indoor masking based on campus metrics.

It's also mandated COVID-19 vaccinations for students and offered $100 credit incentives for getting the shot. Those who aren't fully vaccinated must participate in weekly surveillance testing.

Nyquist says he’s been impressed with the university’s handling of the pandemic so far and that these policies can help keep the campus community safe into the new school year.

The faculty union and administration continue to bargain. Ferris says she’s hopeful NIU will adopt the policies before classes resume.