More than 150 of Georgia Southern faculty want a re-evaluation of in-person classes

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Olivia Craft

STATESBORO — Georgia Southern faculty and staff members have released a petition in regards to the return of in-person classes for the fall 2020 semester.

The petition released on July 4 states that the faculty believes it is their “professional and ethical responsibility” to ensure the health and safety of their students. It expresses their concern that the reopening process does not prioritize scientific evidence and could cause significant health risks.

They say that the university is not holding up its values because it is neglecting to make the college community a main factor in the decision to resume in-person classes for the fall.

In the petition, they state, “we do not feel secure that the education we will be offering to students in 2020 will be free from significant and foreseeable disruption.”

While the petition asks for classes to be delivered remotely in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and disruption in the classroom, they are not asking for everything to be remote. They suggest that the few on-campus activities such as using laboratories and campus residences are regulated and comply with guidelines.

They also suggest that there should be free COVID-19 testing on all campuses and that everyone should be updated weekly on the current information about COVID-19 cases and testing.

The petition urges for a rapid and ethical decision to be made in order to ensure that students can be prepared and to give faculty adequate time to prepare their instructional plans for the fall semester.

So far, 190 faculty and staff have signed the petition. There is also a petition for people who are not faculty members to sign in support of the petition against in-person classes.

“I think that the best situation right now would be for officials to recognize that higher education is not going to disappear just because of this global pandemic,” Leticia McGrath, associate professor of spanish, said.

McGrath, speaking in regards to her students, said, “I want them to be comfortable and not have to risk their lives.”

Because they are not allowed to require attendance, there is concern about how to ensure participation in the classroom. Professors are having to come up with at least three different ways to conduct their classrooms.

Lisa Abbott, who is a professor of theatre, said, “we must think in terms of the times. I doubt we will be able to avoid moving back on line no matter what we plan.  I think the most important  thing in the petition is the first point… In many ways the University has been trying to do this, but with hands tied by the Board of Regents.”

Abbott said, “I am concerned with how much politics have played a role over health.”

Dustin Anderson, who is Georgia Southern faculty and part of the provost team, said, “I think when it comes down to things like student accommodations, we are working really hard on that.” He expresses that they are working to make accommodations for all professors and students so that the classroom settings will still be effective.

When asked how classrooms will look for in-person classes, Anderson said that the classrooms will function as social distance spaces. There will not be plexiglas in the majority of classrooms due to fire hazards surrounding them. There are also going to be microphones in larger classrooms.

Anderson said, “I really hope that we can get into a space where we trust each other to do the right thing… there’s not a whole lot of grace. People are unwilling to understand what it must be like to be in somebody else’s shoes.”

Olivia Craft, Managing Editor of Enterprise, [email protected]