Will faculty be Free to Choose in-person or on-line for Winter classes?

Update: It seems the deans of the colleges are willing to be much clearer on what will happen in Winter than our president and provost – or maybe their messages don’t get filtered by as many layers of PR flacks. A sample from the CHC: you’re going to be teaching on-line unless you want to opt out and have a damn good reason, in which case we will probably just cancel your class:

“First, we expect that the majority (if not all) of the course offerings in the CHC will be synchronous remote classes. You should plan to have live, remote engagement with your students during your scheduled class times. Asynchronous online teaching is not an option for Honors College courses. Please let us know if you anticipate any challenges in offering live engagement for your remote course.  

Second, if you would prefer to have your class scheduled as an in-person class (with the COVID-19 precautions outlined in today’s email from Schill and Phillips) please let us know and we will do our best to accommodate your request. Please be aware that we do not yet have guidance on whether the CHC will be allowed to offer in person classes and that the status of Winter 2021 in-person offerings may change as the COVID-19 situation evolves. If your class REQUIRES in person engagement (i.e., would need to be cancelled rather than offered remotely), please let us know as soon as possible.”

10/13/2020: Surprisingly, today’s email from our President and Provost is a bit unclear about that, just saying that we will be surveyed, but not explaining who has final say. Last spring the administration did 2 surveys for Fall teaching. The first asked about pre-existing conditions and preferences. The second, done after pushback from our faculty union, eliminated the bit about pre-existing conditions and just asked for choices, making clear these would be respected unless a class simply couldn’t be done on-line. I assume the survey for Winter will be of the second type – I don’t know why this email just doesn’t say that.

Also, shouldn’t this email be coming from Francis White, Prof of Anthropology and Chair of the UO Senate’s Academic Council, instead of just from UO’s president and provost?

Dear colleagues,

We are writing to announce that winter term courses at the University of Oregon will continue to be delivered much like they have been for fall term, with a mix of remote, online, and some in-person courses. In-person instruction will focus on some experiential courses, such as labs, studio or creative classes, physical education, and a handful of other courses. All in-person classes will follow strict COVID-19 precautions such as requiring face coverings, reduced density, increased air circulation, and physical distancing.

We made this decision based on our careful monitoring of COVID-19 indicators and prevalence in Lane County and across Oregon. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, the health and safety of the entire UO community remains our top priority. We will continue to take precautions, evaluate the situation, and adapt as necessary in coordination and compliance with guidance from the Oregon Health Authority and appropriate local health authorities. As is the case now, many of our buildings, including residence halls, the Knight Library, the Student Rec Center, Erb Memorial Union, research facilities, and some classroom spaces will be open to the campus community. This map provides information about operational status of all campus buildings.

As with fall, instructors will be surveyed regarding whether their winter term course will be offered in person, remotely, or as a hybrid. We will send that survey to faculty and GEs later this month.

We anticipate the winter term class schedule will be released on November 16. We will continue to offer all-remote options for students. Employees not teaching winter term will continue to perform their work as they have during the fall term, with some faculty members, officers of administration, and classified employees working in person to support research activities and to provide necessary services to our students and the university community, and others working remotely to maintain appropriate density on campus. We encourage supervisors and employees to use this as an opportunity to check in on how the implementation of unit resumption plans, individual work schedules, and other arrangements are going.As we look ahead to spring term, we will continue to monitor the COVID-19 indicators. Our COVID-19 Monitoring and Assessment Program team will continue to ramp up capacity to allow for greater surveillance testing of students, faculty, and staff.

We hope to be able to expand the level of in-person courses and experiences, as it is safe to do so. This can only happen if we all work together to prevent the spread of the virus. This requires diligent adherence to prevention measures such as mask wearing, staying home when sick, physically distancing, and not gathering in groups. It is vitally important to take these precautions on campus and off to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our community. Thank you for your resilience, perseverance, and commitment to caring for each other and our University of Oregon community.


Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law

Patrick Phillips
Provost and Senior Vice President

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15 Responses to Will faculty be Free to Choose in-person or on-line for Winter classes?

  1. Presumptive Idiot says:

    Why the hell is the UO still encouraging students to be on campus? (Rhetorical question, it’s “not” about the money…) While it’s not everyone, students continue to party and blatantly disregard any guidance or rules during this pandemic. A quick journey through housing around campus demonstrates the number of students moving in groups, lacking any masks, and partying as usual. The UO’s response has been weak and ill-natured; focusing more on their image than actual community safety. The UO has acted negligently. Cases have continued to rise. Lane County is quickly becoming one of the worst counties in the state and now there is consideration towards steps back towards Phase 1 or even baseline with all of the requisite closures. The UO is hurting this community, the UO is hurting our small businesses that have struggled through this pandemic, and the UO will continue to put it’s own self interest about that of the community and its’ constituents. Such shorted sighted action by the UO will only come back to hurt it in the end.

  2. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    Well said! I would just add that lax as things may be in the dorms, very few of the infection cases have been there. It’s almost all off campus. And not, as far as I can tell, associated with businesses, but rather with social gatherings. I don’t think all the fault of UO, the city too. (And, it’s not all UO students, a lot of townies too.) It will be very unfair to the businesses if they have to shut down again. Why don’t UO and the city together do something? Maybe the Governor too.

  3. vhils says:

    I grit my teeth every time I hear about off-campus student parties and other student behaviors that are causing spread, but I’m not sure what the University can actually do about it. The University continues to actively promote good behavior through social media and the few student activities they’re having on campus. And people in the know would tell you that shaming/calling out bad pandemic behavior can actually have a worse effect, especially in terms of useful contact tracing. Maybe UO could have done a better job of getting students to not be in Eugene in this year, but 1) a good portion of the town’s small businesses exist because of students and depend, even more so now, on them to survive 2) off-campus students have expensive 12-month leases and the landlords aren’t exactly being flexible on not charging rent, so its not surprising that a good chunk of the students are in town. If you have solutions to have 20-year olds act like 20-year olds, have at it, but I think the university is in a very difficult position at the moment.

    • Presumptive Idiot says:

      I use the word ‘negligent’ very carefully in this situation. Had the UO been one of the first institutions to reopen and experience these difficulties, had the UO approached reopening having learned and developed procedures based off the lessons of those other institutions that came before, had the UO acted along the principles they claim, taking proactive steps that ‘aren’t about the money’ and are developed from the trials and errors of our peer institutions, then perhaps the situation we find ourselves in would be ‘unfortunate’. Instead, the UO seems determined to fail or intentionally ignore the lessons are peer institutions have learnt upon reopening and subsequently closing again. The UO is not special, our students and their challenges are not so different than any other institution, and sadly the UO’s approach to this pandemic copies the same failed strategies of our peer institutions.

      Even using the term UO feels wrong in this situation. Many, if not most of our faculty, of our staff, and of our students are following best practices and guidelines regardless of whether they are on campus. It is leadership who have failed us. It is President Schill who has acted negligently. Decisions have been made in isolation, without appropriate context or consultation. President Schill promotes an ‘open’ UO and so the UO must present this token appearance of being ‘open’. President Schill tells students that this is still the UO, this is still that ‘college experience’. Can we then really be shocked that students behave like this is college, like life is normal right now?

      As for the UO’s approach to this problem, my education and experience leave little to draw from. This is not my area of expertise and, barring a recent viewing of Contagion, I know nothing about this. But even I, as much of an idiot as I presume to be, can see flagrant feats of failure. 1) Every student enrolled in at least one on-campus class must be tested before attending classes. 2) A random sampling of at least 100 tests per 1,000 students enrolled in an on-campus class are performed weekly with hard cutoffs for in-person activity based on those pre-established metrics 3) Sufficient testing is available for faculty and staff who must work on campus to be tested in an equivalent random sampling pattern as enrolled student. 4) Implement community policing practices to promote best practices and discourage at risk behavior (i.e. no more police sitting in their idling SUV in front of the EMU, instead knock on the doors of parties and distribute masks, talk to students walking down the street and give them masks, or as I unofficially call it “Compliance by Annoyance”). 5) Revamp Covid education for students telling them not just what, but why it matters to take these steps. Real world stories of people who are suffering from this disease and who have been impacted.

      Until these steps can be implemented, no on-campus classes should be offered.

      But it’s okay, we have football, and it’s not about the money.

      • anon2 says:

        I went to Sundance yesterday. Not a student in sight, but instead I could see (1) a worker without mask and just a face shield and (2) several adult clients with the mask bobbing up and down, nose exposed for all to see. My throat started twitching and walked out of there as fast as I could (hard to do, given the glacial speed of Sundance’s cashiers). I’m not going there again.
        The point here is that the community is full of people not doing their part. The University may not have clear guidelines on a number of questions, but the same can be said about the city and the county. Where are the workplace guidelines that prohibit face shields without masks? Why aren’t uniform guidelines for dealing with Covid cases in nursery schools (LOTS of infections there) and other workplaces?

        • Presumptive Idiot says:

          The difference is in the numbers. Looking at daily case reporting for Lane County, UO students have accounted for roughly 1/3 to 1/2 of the cases. Additionally, deep diving into the numbers, 11-30 year-olds (which is the reporting ranges for Lane County, but with a little extrapolation can effectively serve as a pseudo 18-25 year-old population) account for the largest infected population, only comparable to all other age groups combined. While my methodology is by no means rigorous, 18-25 year-old college students with some help from their non-college acquaintances are the engine driving this case increase. Furthermore, by connecting information gleaned through contacting tracing and reported by OHA and Lane County Health, we can establish that group social events and party behavior is the key predictor for cases within the county.
          You’re not getting sick from the person at the grocery store with a piece of plastic for protection or person on the street who forgets that air comes out their nose, you will get sick from that backyard BBQ with a few friends that you couldn’t pass up before the rain (just to be clear, community based spread (e.g. mister faceshield at Sundance) remains relatively low especially when you consider the prevalence of false community spread reports attributed to students lying to contact tracers to avoid the DoS hammer).
          My point isn’t how you get sick, but what drives our indicators towards Phase 1 roll back and shelter-in-place orders. These are the steps that are necessary to protect the wider community but they are also the steps that kill small businesses (as opposed to the harmful, although not always fatal impact of a lack of college-students in the community). If college student activity is driving indicators in the wrong direction and the UO fails to quell that trend, we will further restrictions as the only option for county and state officials in response to the UO’s inaction.

          Lastly, while asymptomatic case spread amongst children, especially in confined conditions of daycare, is a complexity for contact tracing and community spread, we have seen relatively very few actual cases (29 cases in 0-10 age group in the last 2 weeks). This is not an issue of sundance guy’s faceshield vs. college student party behavior, but a combined set of problems across the community that must be dealt with. But let’s focus on those driver’s of case number impact in our community. (I wonder what the response would be if the counties case number increase were attributed to political rallies?)
          But seriously, how hard is it to cover your nose…

  4. thedude says:

    Every other campus like ours sees a bump in cases that lasts for about 2-3 weeks when classes resume and then it fades away.

    Every class teaching in person on the country shows minimal evidence of classroom spread.

    • CSN says:

      Lots of assumptions embedded there about the testing, tracing, and reporting regimes in those places. Don’t you think it’s likely that there is some correlation between the decision to hold in-person classes and the sophistication of the tracing scheme which could reveal that those classes are spreading COVID?

  5. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    By the way, what has happened to cheap, easy, frequent rapid testing? This was supposed to be a game changer. UO was supposed to have it by mud October as I recall. Have I missed something?

    • ScienceDuck says:

      Did you see the email today? 4000 tests a week, mandatory tests on-campus, voluntary off.

  6. One of UO's thousand mini landlords now says:

    Where do I submit my home office and internet expenses for reimbursement? Is that through my department, or is there a central office for it?

    • Presumptive Idiot says:

      I just submit all of my reimbursement requests through Pres. Schill’s office. Pro Tip: label the expense as Athletic Services or Thought Partner Consulting fees and they just automatically round up to the nearest thousand.

    • Fishwrapper says:

      I’m classified, and the SEIU letter of agreement states that I am to be automagicallly allowed to work from home unless the work is tied to a specific location (it’s not) unless”…resources to perform the work required by the employee are unavailable (i.e., computers, network availability, etc.).” Nothing in the LOA says the employer must to make them available.

      So, given the option of working from home or just being home from work, I’m eating my increased internet expense…

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