• Art Jahnke

    Senior Contributing Editor

    Art Janke

    Art Jahnke began his career at the Real Paper, a Boston area alternative weekly. He has worked as a writer and editor at Boston Magazine, web editorial director at CXO Media, and executive editor in Marketing & Communications at Boston University, where his work was honored with many awards. Profile

Comments & Discussion

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There are 30 comments on Provost Addresses Faculty’s In-Person Teaching Concerns

    1. Good morning, the Human Resources department will be sending a survey to staff early this week that will help the University tailor the Staff Workplace Adjustment Requests process accordingly and in concert with the phased approach applicable to staff. That process will be announced in the next couple of weeks.

    2. “Ken Freeman, interim vice president for human resources, says his department will be sending a survey to staff early next week that will help staff members tailor their Staff Workplace Adjustment Requests process accordingly and in concert with the phased approach applicable to staff. That process will be announced in the next couple of weeks.”

  1. I am deeply worried that the university is taking advantage of both students’ and parents’ understandable desire for a return to college life. Nothing about this is going to be a normal college experience, and I can’t imagine what a classroom with all the proper precautions will feel like—everyone masked (in best case scenario, but are professors then responsible for enforcing this? What happens if a student refuses?), six feet apart, perhaps in a basement classroom with no windows. How can students have meaningful conversations and work together (which would presumably be the reason to go to all this trouble) under these physical restrictions, but also under the understandable fear of contracting or spreading COVID? Online learning leaves a lot to be desired, but at least meaningful group work is still possible there.

    I worry about not just the students, instructors, and cleaning staff, but also the many Bostonians who will be in contact with students and instructors on the MBTA and in the city generally. Bringing students back from all over the country at a time when COVID is spiking in a wide variety of locales, and expecting that students will abide by strict rules about their movements and contact with each other, is an extremely risky bet. All the precautions and testing in the world can’t adequately mitigate it.

    1. I definitely agree. While Zoom classes limit the classroom experience as well, they are a safer alternative to returning to campus. I think bringing everyone back in the fall — even with all of these proposed restrictions — will just damage the situation even further, maybe even jeopardizing our second semester as well.

  2. As I a student, I fully support online learning as the primary mode of delivery except for courses that absolutely require in person contact.
    Why expose faculty to unnecessary risks when you’re not even sure we as students will show up? Have students been surveyed to see how many of us will prefer to leave the comfort and safety of our homes to come on campus?

    Leadership needs to carefully consider the concerns of faculty and not just focus on the financial bottom line.
    This decision affects not just faculty but the well-being of their families and many more others so their concerns should be heard and properly addressed.
    The tone of the responses to faculty concerns raised sounds dictatorial and non-collaborative. Faculty can’t deliver a superior student experience if they feel unsafe.
    Please keep our faculty safe.
    To the administration: We as students are watching you, we are looking to you to set an example for us to aspire to. The city of Boston is looking to BU as premier school. Let’s remember our actions affects not just our community but the city and state.

  3. As a faculty member I recently received a spreadsheet with the university’s assessment of how many people can safely be in the room that I am scheduled to teach in at one time. Of my 17 students, I can have 7 in the classroom with me. My colleague can have 3 of her 18 students in her classroom at a time. 3 students, one instructor. She is supposed to risk her life commuting to Boston 3 days a week to meet with 3 students in person at a time, while the other 15 are online. How can anyone believe that this even approximates an in-class experience for these students? What possible benefit is there for holding this class in person rather than entirely remotely?

  4. I feel bad for the international students who are forced to return to campus or else, their F1/J1 status is voided and they’re forced to take a leave of absence.

    Also, what about professors who are sick/immunocompromised, undergoing chemo, or are seniors? It’s horrifying that they’re scapegoats for the movement to reopen.

    1. Thanks, Ellie. The health of BU’s student, faculty, and staff community continues to be the our top priority as we prepare for the fall semester. As shared in both this story and Provost Morrison’s announcement last Friday (https://www.bu.edu/provost/2020/06/19/return-to-residential-education-process-for-requesting-workplace-adjustment-for-fall-2020/), there is a process for faculty members who are considered part of the COVID-19 high-risk category to request a workplace adjustment that would enable them to continue teaching remotely.

    2. Not to mention international teaching fellows who — very understandably — left for their home countries when all this began and campus was shut down, and who are now being told that they will be forced into taking a leave of absence of they can’t somehow get back to Boston in the midst of closed embassies, cancelled flights, and sealed borders.

  5. Wow. The lack of consideration of all parties involved in the dream to return to campus is unsettling. Just the few comments posted here reveal some pretty substantial gaps in the larger plan to return. If there is an option to create a new normal, why not take it? At least temporarily.

  6. BU’s plan is far too optimistic. The US is still in the first spike of the pandemic and even if we leave it, it will return in the fall and force open campuses to close. Cases have been decreasing in Massachusetts, but what about when students from all over the US, including new hotspots, return to Boston?

    Forcing instructors (not just tenured faculty but also tenure track faculty, lecturers, adjuncts, and graduate students) to reveal their health information seems barely legal and will be traumatic for some (i.e., revealing a pregnancy early on, revealing health conditions of someone in the same household). What about people with no pre-existing health conditions? We see that many healthy people who get COVID are left with debilitating conditions and we don’t even know the full extent of the permanent damage this virus can do yet. Does the BU administration care if its faculty and staff are left permanently disabled? Does it care if its undergraduate students are? They seem to forget (or blatantly ignore) that even healthy people are dying from this.

    If goals of the provost and deans are to protect our community, perhaps someone else should be doing their job. If their goals are purely financially-oriented, I am skeptical that even this plan will save the bottom line.

    1. I’ve been saying since March…”how about THAT workmen’s comp claim.” Now I am saying, “how about the impending onslaught of workmen’s comp claims”

  7. Is the urgency for in-person classes primarily driven by the need for this in order to allow international students, who are a large source of revenue to BU, to be able to acquire their visas? Perhaps faculty at risk could continue to teach remotely, as it appears to be a viable solution, and have younger, healthier teaching fellows physically in the classroom while the professor’s lecture is being projected in real time?

    1. The burden for in person leadership SHOULD NOT be shifted to underpaid and overworked graduate students. Grad students are not considered employees by the university yet are being expected to risk their lives in order to fulfill the service component of their duties and receive a stipend. Grad students don’t get a very comprehensive health insurance plan and most of them live in pretty small apartments with several other people, who they can easily spread the virus to if they contract it. It’s not fair to put even more pressure and risk on student workers (many of whom are also having to take classes while they assist in teaching) who are not extended the same perks or benefits as faculty members.

  8. With a relatively small endowment it’s understandable why Management wants to get back on campus ASAP. However until very recently they have been announcing plans to do this with zero consultation with Faculty/Staff and with zero consideration for their health. The introduction of a form to apply for “Workplace Exceptions” is a good step, but everything depends on whether they are actually granted by the committee. I’m sure there is a way to have some on-campus teaching with vulnerable Faculty/Staff online.

    Except for the financial considerations, it would be better to stay online, or to have a limited on-campus component. Many believe there will be a second wave of COVID in the Fall. Faculty were zoom beginners in March and would have spent the summer upgrading their online teaching competence and coming up with new ideas, instead of worrying about avoiding risk. How much better will the on-campus experience be with everyone social distancing and wearing full PPE?

  9. I have been watching this thread with interest this morning, and much of it resonates with me. I am a full-time member of the faculty at BU, and have been here for over ten years. I am over 65, so ‘technically’ I am in the ‘at risk’ category.

    Over the last few months I have quarantined – having been teaching abroad for BU when COVID-19 ‘exploded’ – and I have been VERY cautious since, as my partner looks after her 96 year old mother, and I do not want to be complicit in anything that could create an opportunity for COVID to spread within my immediate ‘sort of’ family group.

    Teaching on campus in the Fall scares me. I do not know how my students are behaving outside of the classroom, I do not know how to teach a three hour class wearing a face mask (although I do know how to teach online, having been doing that for over ten years), I do not want to be responsible for ‘policing’ mask wearing and social distancing in my classroom, and I suspect that the social distancing arrangements will mean that – at most – my students will get maybe three classroom sessions and nine or ten ‘remote/hybrid’ sessions over the Fall semester.

    BU has ‘bent over backwards’ to give students a number of options, but the strong message from the BU management is that I am expected to be in the classroom in September, even though at this moment we have no idea how many students will enroll for Fall 2020 classes.

    COVID cases are increasing in most of the US, and there are no borders between States here. Returning students will come from all over the US and all over the world, and they will bring infection with them. BU’s testing plans are a step in the right direction, but weekly or fortnightly testing still allows for plenty of asymptomatic transmission.

    I understand the financial implications. BU is ‘bleeding heavily’ at the moment, with empty dorm rooms, limited tuition revenue, and a big financial overhead. I want BU to survive, but I want to survive as well !!!

    1. I completely agree with you. I’m a current doctoral student, and I’m also terrified. My wife is also faculty at another university.

      Aren’t most other universities closed for the fall semester now? MIT? Harvard? U Mass Boston? But not BU?!

      I guess what they are saying is that lives are going to sacrificed for ‘lifestyle.’ In other words… $$$.

  10. Okay, that is the last straw for me. How is this equal rights for all???
    I will be making a protest website soon.
    This is not a time to be risking lives, BU.
    Who’s with me? I’ll be sharing the link and plans to protest soon.

  11. It is completely unfair and unreasonable to expect parents and students to pay regular fees for basically an online learning experience? BU is already one of the most expensive universities in the US. Any adjustments to what was expected when students applied to BU need to be reflected accordingly in lower fees.

  12. I am incredibly disappointed that this article does not address students’ perspectives. Students made up a significant portion of the community-wide petition advocating for a policy allowing BU Faculty to choose in the fall. There is also an independent student petition (for incoming, current, or past students) to sign in support of such a policy. BU Today was aware of this student petition and conveniently excluded students’ perspectives from this article. The student petition can be found here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ogjuNXLO7ZDW7AMtrwtGJmD81cL_5p_EVaQTfFfQqq0/edit?usp=sharing

    As a student, I know myself, my friends, and many current/past BU students (over 200 in the student petition) care deeply about BU faculty’s well being and support a policy allowing them to choose whether to work in person or work remotely. This is not just a “faculty versus university” problem – this is a community-wide problem.

      1. Thank you, I did see that article. Its focus is very different and only captures a few students’ perspectives on returning to campus in general. Yesterday’s article focuses specifically on the university’s policies regarding faculty choice in the fall and had no reference to the hundreds of students who have signed petitions in support of this policy.

  13. On June 25, the CDC released new guidelines regarding underlying medical conditions and COVID-19. There are important changes to the classifications of increased risk groups. For example, it was previously stated that a BMI of 40 or over puts you in an increased risk group, but it is now stated that a BMI of 30 or over puts you in an increased risk group. June 25 also happens to be the due date for workplace adjustment forms at Boston University (employees were given 5 working days to complete and submit the form). Will the university extend the deadline for submission of these forms so that employees who only now qualify for a health based accommodation might have an opportunity to ask for one? Alternatively, will there be a second period before the fall during which employees will have another opportunity to submit a workplace adjustment form?

  14. Concerned researcher

    While I echo the concerns stated in the previous posts, I have an additional question for the on campus planners:

    The EU is considering/will be refusing entry to people from the US because of the widespread nature of the infection here. More than in any other country at the moment. Are we any less concerned than they ?

    Are students/families coming from the states with spikes in infection rates going to be asked to be tested before they get on the road/airplane? And when they arrive? Are we relying on them individually to go get tested? IN China, once someone is tested, they have an icon sent to their iPhones. No one is allowed into public building without the icon. Do I want to emulate China? Not in general–but this is not a bad idea.

    We know that people who become sick from those who are ill, but asymptomatic, have a higher risk of lung damage. The idea of masses of students from Texas, South Carolina, California, Alabama etc etc. which are currently seeing enormous rises in rates, arriving on campus, living in dorms, shopping, going to class etc etc is frightening, regardless of the specifics of one’s risk level. Do we really think we can put our safety into the hands of 18 and 19 year olds who count partying, alcohol infused activities etc as part of their “college experience”? What are the “in parentis locus” consequences for students who do not follow the guidelines? If they are not robust, they are toothless.

    Why is it considered safer to have students on campus from Sept to November and then send them home 1 month earlier than normal–back on the airplanes, back to their families where they can again pick up another round of infections, fly back on airplanes and again, arrive on campus…? Is there any scientific basis for thinking that 3 months of “campus experience” is significantly less dangerous than 4 months of campus experience.?

    I understand the impulse to have students back, but in my opinion, the plans have to be more robust and much more intensive on the side of safety for all .

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