NOLS' Response to Covid-19
Revised May 1, 2020.
The NIA acknowledges and appreciates the hard work of the NOLS administration as well as the steps they’ve already taken to soften the impact of the global pandemic on NOLS employees. These steps include, but are not limited to:
- Paying 100% wages on contracts canceled within 30 days of the contract start date
- Paying 50% of wages on contracts canceled between 30 and 60 days prior to the contract start date
- Reimbursing some instructor travel expenses from cancelled contracts
We further acknowledge the difficulty of the decision making process thus far, and recognize that we are far from the end of this crisis. We affirm NOLS’ decision to protect students and faculty alike by cancelling courses. We understand that NOLS’ loss of income due to the present crisis will be substantial, and that the administration has a responsibility to ensure the long term survival of the school.
Additionally, we believe it is important for NOLS to acknowledge the many negative impacts of the current state of affairs on instructors that are not yet addressed by the current course of action. These include:
- Uncertainty around courses scheduled to run after June 30th, including the bulk of Summer Expedition Courses, which represent a majority of annual NOLS earnings for a very substantial portion of NOLS instructors
- The vast majority of NOLS employees do not have an employer-sponsored health care plan. An unknown, but likely significant, number of employees have no health insurance whatsoever. These individuals now face a global pandemic from a position of extreme financial insecurity
- Loss of 50% wages for courses scheduled to start after April 14 and 100% of wages for courses starting after mid May.
- Full loss of wages on some courses that would have started after April 14 but prior to mid May. (e.g. NOLS Wilderness Medicine Courses sponsored by Landmark Learning)
- Loss of lodging and rations on field courses
- Loss of lodging, per diem, travel pay, travel meal reimbursement, and reimbursement for mileage on cancelled classroom courses
- Very substantial loss of income for sponsors of NOLS Wilderness Medicine courses, some of whom are also NOLS instructors (e.g. Dave Yacubian of Ready SF and Lena Conlan of Crossing Latitudes)
- Loss of summer work for at least some Program Supervisors and other support staff at NOLS campuses around the world
We take it as self evident that NOLS does not have the ability to ameliorate all of these consequences. Nevertheless, we advocate for NOLS to take the following additional steps:
The NIA applauds the following steps take by NOLS since the inception of this document, all of which have been in line with prior NIA advocacy:
- Regardless of whether it proves feasible for NOLS to pay out contracts cancelled due to Covid-19, the NIA advocates for instructors to continue to accrue sick days on these contracts. This is especially important as the virus is unlikely to be eradicated by the time we are able to return to work.
- The NIA applauds the public recognition, in an email on March 16th, 2020, that the current crisis will impact the volume of summer work. The NIA advocates continued timely and transparent messaging around probable impacts on future seasons. If NOLS can foresee a reasonable likelihood of a major downturn in enrollment, this information should be broadcast to all employees so that they can make informed decisions about their future work options.
- Delaying the due date for Fall WRAPs until at least the end of April to give more time for both administration and instructors to see how the situation develops.
- Despite the obvious negative impacts on the individuals involved, the cancellation of all spring Instructor Courses. Off-season work opportunities for current field instructors were insufficient before the start of the current crises. In 2020 it is likely that there won’t be enough work for current instructors even during the midsummer peak. We advocate that NOLS consider the impact of running any ICs this summer in terms of the impact on the amount of work available for current instructors.
- NOLS-provided guidance and support, through Connections and elsewhere, for employees seeking unemployment and lost wage benefits being offered by federal and state governments.
- Continuing to find ways for all non-essential headquarters and location employees to work from home, limiting the potential for further spread of the virus to higher risk members within our communities.