CFA Statement on SHEILD COVID-19 Saliva Testing for Local Community

The CFA calls on the University of Illinois to fulfill its public mission by providing its saliva-based COVID testing to the local community. 

For Immediate Release:

April 4, 2021

The Campus Faculty Association (CFA) calls on the University of Illinois to live up to its status as a preeminent public university and a land-grant research institution by sharing its innovative saliva-based covidSHIELD test with the surrounding community free of cost. 

CFA applauds the decision to provide the test to schools, universities, and communities following its approval by the Food and Drug Administration. We were thrilled to read the headlines about SHIELD CU’s involvement in the K-12 initiative funded by the Rockefeller Foundation—thanks, we understand, to the support of Governor Pritzker. However, we strongly oppose the decision to sell the SHIELD test, especially to vulnerable/underserved community members and to family. The U of I is not simply a vendor. It is a public institution supported by and responsible to the Urbana-Champaign and surrounding community. 

We insist that our campus is not an isolated bubble, but part of the larger Champaign County community. Students, faculty, and staff may work and study on campus, but they live, move, shop, and, yes, socialize, in Champaign, Urbana, and surrounding communities. We understand that the tests are costly. But we strongly believe the university must remember its position as a community member, and join the collective pursuit to protect neighbors and friends. 

Perhaps this sounds utopian in the current economic and political climate. But a recent, peer-reviewed engineering study demonstrated that UIUC’s reopening definitively caused COVID-19 to spread beyond university boundaries into the community. Furthermore, a new scientific study bears out the epidemiological value of such an attitude. The authors of “The Case for Altruism in Institutional Diagnostic Testing,” from MIT, Harvard, and Colorado Mesa Institute, suggest that the “self-focused approach” to COVID testing of places like UIUC “not only overlooks surrounding communities but also remains blind to community transmission that could breach the institution.” They conclude, “Our model supports our hypothesis that the altruistic approach––in which institutions test beyond their walls––is the most effective protection strategy.” And as CDC director Rochelle Walensky and President Joseph Biden emphasize, the pandemic is not over yet. While vaccines continue to roll out, cases may be on an upswing. Testing remains crucial.

We call on the University of Illinois to fulfill its public mission, as Dr. Wanda E. Ward, the co-lead of SHIELD-CU herself put it. We want the entire community to stay well and safe, too. We call on the university to provide its covidSHIELD test to the surrounding community free of cost, especially to underserved and vulnerable communities in the area. 

Who We Are

The Campus Faculty Association (CFA) is an advocacy organization for faculty and other campus workers committed to shared governance, academic freedom, and a strong faculty voice on campus. The majority of CFA members are tenure-stream faculty. Non-tenure stream faculty in most campus units are represented by their union, the Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition Local #6546.

CFA supports the principles of faculty unionization and represents a clear and organized faculty voice. We provide an independent perspective on the university and higher education. 

CFA has been active on the UIUC campus for more than forty years, working on issues of academic freedom, faculty working conditions, and racial and gender equity.

Published by CFA

The Campus Faculty Association (CFA) is an advocacy organization for faculty and other campus workers committed to shared governance, academic freedom, and a strong faculty voice on campus.

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