We are the contingent and full-time faculty, graduate workers, staff, post-doctoral workers, undergraduate workers, and academic librarians who form the backbone of higher education across the United States. The university works because we do. Even during the coronavirus crisis, our efforts preserve the mission of higher education: to create and communicate knowledge in service of the public good. We speak in one voice to say that any university response to the current pandemic must prioritize the needs of the entire academic community. Austerity is not inevitable.

For years to come, higher education will be coping with the pandemic and its economic fallout. Buildings may be emptied, but the research and education that university employees conduct is still essential. So far, universities’ COVID-19 responses have been inconsistent and inequitable. These policies have been unilaterally decided by a small number of university stakeholders. As members of the broader higher education community we call for a more just and comprehensive response. We remain dedicated to the core mission of higher education during this crisis. We demand the same support from our administrators and our governments to realize this mission.

We have collectively identified six core commitments that all learning institutions must make as part of an equitable emergency response and for a robust recovery.

Workers First: Financial stability is both a matter of equity and public health. Retain all contracted employees and eliminate no staff or academic positions. Prioritize endowment draw-downs over hiring freezes, furloughs, and wage cuts.

Stop the Clock: Set at least a one-year freeze on all progress expectations for teaching, research, and degree completion. Include tenure track, graduate and undergraduate degree timelines, fellowship and scholarship requirements, and staff professional development assessments in this pause. Grant an additional funded year to the time-to-degree timeline for all graduate students.

Equal Benefits for All: Worker health is a public health issue. Extend healthcare coverage — including vision, dental, mental healthcare and dependent coverage — to all students and employees, including contingent faculty and part-time employees.

A Fair Transition: The transition to e-learning must include reasonable expectations of students and compensation for instructor efforts. Provide bonus pay for the transition and control of new educational materials created. Students need pass/fail grading, with no requirement to participate in synchronous courses.

A Voice in the Process: Committees and task forces making policy decisions must include members of all sectors of the university community. Recognize unrecognized unions and bargain fairly with unions over the terms of the coronavirus response.

Solidarity Not Austerity: The pandemic must not be an excuse to further marginalize and neglect members of our community. Maintain critical services like student housing, meal plans, and mental health counseling. Provide visa aid to international students.

We are committed to preserving higher education’s critical mission and values, despite the present adversity. We expect nothing less from our employers and governments.