CWU sends letter to Inslee requesting staff be included in next vaccine phase

CWU

ELLENSBURG, Wash. – Washington state is currently in “Phase 1B, Tier 1” of it’s coronavirus vaccination plan, and while the next stage does include K-12 teachers, educators and staff at universities were excluded.

The next phase, “Phase 1B, Tier 2”, includes these groups, according to the state Department of Health:

High-risk critical workers 50 years or older who work in certain congregate settings, such as:
Agriculture; food processing; grocery stores; K-12 (educators & staff); childcare; corrections; prisons, jails or detention centers; public transit; fire; law enforcement.

In response, members of Central Washington University’s faculty senate are asking Governor Inslee put higher-education workers on that list.

“Higher education personnel in Washington who work in-person with students need to be included with K-12 educators in Phase 1B, tier 2 of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan,” said David Leder of CWU in a press statement.

Elvin Delgado, CWU Faculty Senate Chair and a professor in the Department of Geography, points to infection rates for college-age students being much higher than for K-12 students, which she believes makes vaccinations for higher education personnel more urgent.

“These students need the in-person engagement our personnel can only provide safely if they have been inoculated,” he added.

According to a press release, CWU saw a drop in enrollment from fall to winter quarter, with 10% of non-white students and 3% of pell

CWU experienced a significant drop in retention from fall to winter quarter, with 10% of non-white students and 3% of students eligible for federal financial aid electing not to re-enroll. They say the drop in retention can be attributed to a decrease in face-to-face learning opportunities.

The university closed campus to in-person learning in March 2020, and has only offered some hybrid in-person learning since then.

“In-person care and instruction are critical for the students we serve,” noted Elvin Delgado, CWU Faculty Senate Chair and a professor in the Department of Geography. “Just as in K-12 schools, the success for these bright and promising students can be a challenge, even when they have the in-person encouragement and support of counselors, professors, advisors, and mental and medical health staff.”

Here is their full letter addressed to Governor Inslee:

Dear Governor Inslee:

The Faculty Senate of Central Washington University (CWU) respectfully asks that higher education personnel with face-to-face responsibilities for student success be included in the 1B tier 2 vaccine phase, along with K-12 educators. In-person care and instruction are critical for the students we serve. As you may know, CWU is the most diverse institution in the state: 40 percent of students are people of color; more than 60 percent of students are the first in their families to go to college. Just as in K-12 schools, the success for these bright and promising students can be a challenge even when they have the in-person encouragement and support of counselors, professors, advisors, and mental and medical health staff. However, grappling with family, social health and other issues in isolation – in addition to their school responsibilities – can be overwhelming for these students.

We already have seen the erosion of their success in the significant drop in retention just from fall to winter quarter. The reduction is 10 percent for non-white students, and 3 percent for first generation and Pell-eligible students. These students need the in-person engagement personnel only can provide safely if they have been inoculated.

Current data shows college-age students (included in group 20-39) have much higher COVID rates than K-12 students. The college-age demographic makes up 39 percent of COVID cases in Washington state. CWU has many support and academic programs in areas that necessitate face-to-face engagement, from academic and mental health counseling, to applied engineering and aviation as well as music, art, fashion and theatre. These programs and the students in them rely on hands-on communication. In order to operate in-person programs like these, without inoculating higher education personnel, will place the health of personnel – along with the health of their families, colleagues, and community – at risk. Allowing higher education personnel to join the K-12 personnel in the 1B tier 2 category would help to ensure the safety of this critical workforce and the communities in which they live while providing vulnerable students groups with the in-person education that they need and want.

In addition to the health of faculty, this will also allow more classes to be taught in-person. While universities across the world have been successful at pivoting to the online learning environment, it has been at the cost of the students’ expected learning experience and their mental health. College-age students, prior to COVID, were already a vulnerable group in regard to mental health. This is even more true nearly a year into this scenario. Offering more inperson classes will allow students to have the class environment they expect from a university setting and can provide social interaction among students face-to-face and offer more hands-on activities using specific safety protocols. Enabling higher education personnel to safely reengage with this at-risk population will help students to stay in school and get the education they and the State of Washington need them to have.

Respectfully,

Dr. Elvin Delgado, CWU Faculty Senate Chair 2020-2021
Mr. Greg Lyman, CWU Faculty Senate Chair-Elect 2020-2021
Dr. Walter Szeliga, CWU Faculty Senate Past-Chair 2019-2020
Dr. Mark Samples, CWU Faculty Senate Executive Committee
Dr. Kathryn Martell, CWU Faculty Senate Executive Committee
Ms. Andrea Eklund, CWU Faculty Senate Executive Committee
Mr. Stephen Robison, CWU Faculty Senate Executive Committee
Dr. David Douglas, CWU Faculty Senate Executive Committee

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