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Faculty Group To Host ‘Zoom-In’ Protest Starting August 23

Update, August 22: Faculty members’ planned “Zoom-In” protest gained support from the Seven Mountains Central Labor Council — the local governing body of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

In a statement, the group said it applauds Penn State faculty for “taking a stand” for their community.

“As the largest employer in the Centre Region, Penn State can set the standard for safe and dignified working conditions for our community,” the council wrote. “We deserve more than predatory employers and disengaged and out-of-touch political leadership. Penn State can be a leader in fighting for better.”

The Seven Mountains Central Labor Council covers affiliated unions in Centre, Mifflin, and Huntingdon counties.

Update, 8 p.m.: Penn State faculty who teach remotely in protest as classes begin could face disciplinary sanctions, according to a university spokesperson.

“The University already has begun to hear from students and families upset that some faculty are planning to observe the “Zoom In” and teach remotely at the start of the semester…” a Penn State spokesperson said. “It is important for faculty to meet the expectations of our students, and deliver the mode of teaching designated for each course.”

Penn State’s full statement in response to the protest is available below:

Last fall, faculty and students diligently followed masking and other safety protocols required by the University. Provisions for in-class teaching this fall, including a masking requirement, sanitation stations, properly configured HVAC systems and more meet public health guidelines for a safe and positive in-class experience. We expect faculty to provide in-class instruction and any classes designated for it. The University already has begun to hear from students and families upset that some faculty are planning to observe the “Zoom In” and teach remotely at the start of the semester. We understand why students and families are concerned. It is important for faculty to meet the expectations of our students, and deliver the mode of teaching designated for each course. Faculty and instructors who do not meet their in-class teaching obligations may of course be subject to disciplinary sanctions. That is not the point, however. We understand these are challenging times for all in our community, but it is incumbent upon all of us to work together to create a vibrant residential campus experience and deliver outstanding learning and educational experiences for all of our students.

Wyatt DuBois, Assistant Director, University Public Relations

Original Story: A group of Penn State faculty members will take part in a “Zoom-In” protest this week to take “further action” due to a lack of a university vaccine mandate, among other safety precautions.

Organized by the Coalition for a Just University, select faculty will participate in the protest by teaching classes online on Monday, August 23, and Tuesday, August 24. The group said it could extend its protest through a vote at a “mass faculty meeting” Monday afternoon.

“We have asked for a vaccine mandate and other safety precautions through University Senate votes, student government votes, published op/eds, an Open Letter, and a rally,” the group wrote online. “We are now taking further action by organizing a Zoom-In to protest Old Main’s failure to ensure student and community safety.”

At this time, it’s unclear exactly how many faculty members will take part in the “Zoom-In.” Some, including economics professor James Tierney, posted their support on social media.

Interested faculty members can sign this pledge to join the protest. The CJU said it’ll email pledge-signers with more details soon.

To date, Penn State has not required students and employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. However, more than 700 U.S. universities, including eight Big Ten schools, have already implemented vaccine mandates, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Penn State students who aren’t vaccinated (or haven’t submitted proof of vaccination to the university) are required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing this fall. Punishments for noncompliance include conduct referrals, suspensions, and bans from campus events, including football games.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State with distinction in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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