CFA Message to Faculty Regarding Health and Safety During COVID-19 Outbreak

Dear Colleagues, 

I am reaching out to you because I’m as concerned as all Californians are about the spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) and its impact on our lives and neighborhoods.  I know that you all are worried about the safety of your colleagues, students, and university communities.

CFA leadership is participating in and monitoring emergency response plans at the 23 California State University campuses.

The health and safety of CSU students, faculty and staff is CFA’s top priority.  We are especially concerned about our coworkers, students and staff who have vulnerable immune systems, our elderly community members, and our Lecturer faculty who must teach at multiple campuses to cobble together a living wage.

At this time, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at any CSU campus, but some campuses are considering or have decided to suspend in-person classes to help slow or stop the spread of the contagious virus. 

Recommendations from the California Department of Public Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourage employers to take into account local community needs.  San José and San Francisco State Universities have canceled in-person classes beginning today (March 10).

Given the uncertainty and fluidity of developments surrounding this challenging public health landscape, CFA is providing the following guidance to members to protect faculty health and safety, as well as faculty working conditions. For more information, read the CFA MOU; Article 37 includes information about faculty safety.

Union leaders and CFA staff on campus should be able to meet, even on short notice, with campus administrators, with safety or emergency committees, and CFA should be consulted prior to distribution of any directives that may impact faculty working conditions or contractual rights.  While some campus administrations are interested in collaborating with impacted stakeholders, others are not and that is not only disappointing, but also dangerous.

Many campuses are starting to plan for implementation of “continuity plans,” which may entail moving course content to virtual, remote or online delivery systems.  CFA emphasizes that not all courses can accommodate virtual or online treatment due to subject matter and pedagogical needs.  Many courses take weeks, if not months, to plan and translate to online platforms.  A comprehensive list of alternative instruction should be offered.  These should include, but not be limited to, virtual modalities (e.g. “zoom”), online campus learning management systems, remote learning options where available, pedagogically appropriate alternative assignments, self-paced work from home, and take-home exams/quizzes.  Faculty should be able to exercise professional judgement, flexibility, and discretion in determining the best way to provide instruction given the circumstances.

It is imperative that every CSU campus administration supply faculty the appropriate software and training for alternative instruction. Administrations should also consider the needs of students, who may lack access to the internet or face other obstacles to completing their coursework remotely.

Faculty should not be penalized if they are unable to transfer their teaching to alternative modalities. No faculty should be required to teach online or submit plans to do so without appropriate preparation, planning, and compensation for extra work. If faculty must cancel class, they should suffer no repercussions. For highly interactive classes such as music and dance, consult your department chairs and deans for guidance.

No faculty should lose pay or suffer in performance reviews and evaluations due to instructional disruptions.  If there are suspensions of in-person classes, student ratings of instruction may not be reliable sources of input and advice for effective teaching. No personnel decisions should be made that are based on such ratings/evaluation responses.

CFA expects that coaches, counselors, and librarians will be treated with the same safety concerns as others in the CSU community.

CFA has and will continue to condemn and discourage racist stereotyping during this health crisis. CFA is also concerned that faculty and students who are in vulnerable populations not face discrimination or harassment.

The CSU must recognize that some faculty may need to take leave to care for themselves and others who are ill or impacted by work and school closures around the state. Faculty who request emergency leave through Article 23 of the CFA contract should be granted such leave without question. 

Faculty should contact campus administrators and designated individuals on their campuses with community-specific concerns. 

For members who are concerned about their rights, CFA is available to support and protect them.  CFA campus contact information can be found here.

During this critical time, CFA’s highest concern is protecting the health and well being of the CSU’s 485,000 students, 29,000 faculty, 24,000 staff, and countless community visitors while minimizing interruption to student learning as much as possible.  We want everyone to BE SAFE.


Charles Toombs, Ph.D.
President, California Faculty Association
Department of Africana Studies
San Diego State University