Our union chapter is large and diverse, comprising multiple titles, campuses, and work environments. Its executive committee—which includes staff, students, and faculty—reflects this heterogeneity. As such, we are acutely aware of the enormous obstacles that COVID-19 has thrown into the path of faculty and graduate students: added financial hardship, severe mental stress, and, of course, inhibited access to vital on-site resources, such as the library.
Although we welcome broadly based and carefully considered conversations about physical reopening, the health and safety of all of our members must remain our priority. Naturally, and for a variety of legitimate reasons, students and faculty may wish to return to the library as soon as they can. However, library faculty and staff, who are also union members, cannot, under any circumstances, be asked to re-enter an unsafe work environment in order to make this happen. Demands that the library reopen without consideration for the labor required for that reopening (and the risks involved in that labor) betray a fundamental union value: solidarity. Any reopening plan that library faculty and staff advocate for should receive the unequivocal support of our union chapter, even if that means that access to library materials will be delayed.
The starting point for our response to the damage and disruption that COVID-19 has inflicted on graduate students must be emergency funding – not the imposition of further burdens and anxieties on Graduate Center staff. As a union chapter, we will uphold this position while we continue to engage in these vital discussions over the reopening of our university.