You will have seen an unsigned announcement yesterday evening indicating that the Board intends to lockout Members from access to email and other online services should Job Action occur.
This is a reckless decision, both because it will damage the long-term reputation and standing of our University and because cutting off online services may impact the health and safety of our students and the general public. It affects researchers who work with human subjects or whose ethics approvals require them to provide researcher email addresses. It also prevents students from contacting their instructors, even though such instructors are often the first point of student contact for emergencies (Mental Health, etc.).
As you know, ULFA policy is that we do not strike against research and that instructors are encouraged to share alternate addresses with students in order to ensure they can be reached in emergencies. We have these policies in place precisely because of the impact they have on health, safety, and the long-term viability of the institution.
It is in nobody’s interest to harm the future success of our University or risk the health and safety of our students and other Albertans in order to gain short-term tactical advantage at the bargaining table.
We had hoped that the U of L would follow other research-intensive institutions in recognising the importance of continuing email access for Members of the academic staff. But we also have been planning for this contingency. Together with other members of the Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations (CAFA) we have been preparing a form letter that you can use as an out-of-office reply, to alert funding agencies, research and industrial partners, and others (such as research subjects) about the Board’s virtual lockout, and to provide contacts with your alternate email address. You will receive a copy of this later today. It will also be posted to our blog at http://ulfa.ca.
In the meantime, you should prepare for the eventuality that your email will be cut off. We have alternate email addresses for the vast majority of our Members and will be attempting to contact those for whom we do not. We will begin using the alternate email addresses we have for ULFA communications over the next few days. This may mean that you will receive duplicate messages while your uleth account is still active.
Above all, however, we recommend that you begin today to forward all uleth email to your alternate account. You should also review recent correspondence to ensure that essential emails are forwarded to that alternate address before you are locked out. While the Board has not consulted with us on the matter, it sounds like they are intending to restrict access to your entire account, meaning you will also not be able to access previously received or archived emails if they have not been forwarded or downloaded in advance. You can find instructions on how to set up forwarding (and in some cases forward entire folders) here.
Finally, since the email indicates that the Board also will be locking you out of access to other “online academic platforms,” you should review which services you use under your university account for research and other activities (e.g. Qualtrics, etc.) in case the Board’s decision impacts crucial activity.
We regret that the Board has taken such an irresponsible step during this “cooling off” period. Threatening to lockout Members from their email at this point is both unhelpful in negotiations and something that creates immediate damage to the institution as a whole since Members are forced to announce the lockout to funders, partners, community members, and students immediately, long before the strike vote has even taken place.
Please let us know about any problems you experience or anticipate as a result of the Board’s decision. There were many other things in the Board’s email that may require action on the part of Members and which we will address through various channels, including upcoming ULFA and student townhalls.
The virtual lockout, however, requires your immediate attention.