Magnanimous Provost belatedly lets faculty minions teach on zoom for a few weeks

Stay tuned for the official announcement as soon as it’s vetted by UO’s strategic communicators.

Now comes the announcement:

Dear University of Oregon community,

We are grateful to have you here and engaged in a winter term that is more challenging than some. We especially appreciate everyone’s flexibility around the unanticipated travel disruptions experienced by many of our faculty, staff, and students. Oregon has been on the lagging end of the latest COVID-19 surge caused by the Omicron variant. However, we now have a much clearer picture of what the next month is likely to look like with respect to incidence levels within the university community.We are fortunate that this surge does not constitute a public health emergency for the university, as we have had the essential mitigation tools of vaccination, testing, and masks in place since the start of the academic year. Indeed, at last count, over 95 percent of our community is vaccinated.Because of the need to isolate upon infection, it is now clear that there is a potential for a short-term disruption in coursework for many students, and we want to ensure that we have appropriate continuity in educational opportunities and operations as the surge progresses. As I said in my message on December 28, we have prepared to manage potential disruptions caused by faculty, staff, and student quarantine and isolation requirements.

With that in mind, we are immediately implementing the following policies:

  • We are now following updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Oregon Health Authority (OHA) guidelines shortening quarantine and isolation periods to five days when certain conditions are met, as detailed in our COVID exposure guidelines.
  • Faculty members who need to quarantine, isolate, or who have a family member who needs to stay at home for a COVID-related cause will continue to follow our previous remote teaching policies, which include moving their courses to synchronous online instruction during the period of their own quarantine or isolation. Resources on providing coursework remotely are available online.
  • Upon approval of deans and department heads, instructors may move courses that are experiencing 20 percent or more COVID-related student absences to synchronous online instruction for a limited period to provide more equitable course access to students. This will usually not apply to courses that do not lend themselves to a rapid shift to remote instruction, such as lab, workshops, internships, and studios. Faculty should consult with their deans about special cases. We continue to emphasize in-person instruction as the best option whenever possible and instructors may continue to teach in person even with 20 percent or more of their class absent.
  • Instructors who remain in person are required to provide recorded versions of their courses to absent students, unless there is a pedagogical reason not to do so, following guidelines recently enacted by the Academic Council so that students needing accommodation for COVID-related absences can have access to course materials.
  • Instructors are required to provide students with at least 24 hours’ notice before any change in modality.
  • Students who are unable to attend a class for COVID-related reasons should contact their instructor right away to make arrangements for the class and complete the case and contact form.
  • Supervisors and employees should work together on flexible work approaches if necessary for COVID-related absences due to quarantine or isolation. And we remind all employees of the leave options available should they be unable to work due to illness.
  • Disposable surgical masks continue to be available in classrooms, and we anticipate that a limited number of disposable KN95s may also soon be available during the upcoming surge for those who have forgotten their masks at home.

To be clear, campus remains open and administrative offices will continue with their current operational stance. The surge is predicted to largely be abated by early February. We therefore expect that at this time all courses will return to in-person instruction by Monday, February 7, and other operations to go back to a more routine flexible work environment posture. We will continue to carefully monitor for any evidence of classroom or workplace transmission of the virus, which could necessitate a broader campus-wide response.Mounting evidence indicates that being fully up to date on vaccination substantially helps to mitigate the most severe effects of Omicron, so we remind everyone to become fully up to date on booster shots when eligible, as required by the university vaccination policy.This is not how we had hoped to begin 2022. But we firmly believe that by following these steps we can minimize operational disruptions on campus through this surge while continuing to keep our community safe. Thank you, once again, for your commitment and cooperation.


Patrick Phillips
Provost and Senior Vice President

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56 Responses to Magnanimous Provost belatedly lets faculty minions teach on zoom for a few weeks

  1. Dog says:

    I suspect this will be the case and will likely start out as optional
    for some faculty. At this point, I think it is only the State of Oregon
    that can issue a mandate that all classes would be remote.

    This is likely also a big waste of the first 2-3 weeks of this academic term as we should just have started out this way, as many other have pointed out an are now realizing.

  2. Thedude says:

    It’s a waste to go on zoom at all. We’re all getting omicron. People are at just different degrees in their grief cycle about it (most are sticking in bargaining mode thinking going on zoom will stop it which it won’t).

    • uomatters says:

      I agree, might as well get it now before my booster fully depreciates. Say, when’s the next basketball game?

      • uomatters says:

        Hmm, no home game until the 20th. Anyone want to go hear Tool at Knight arena on the 10th? They seem to have a lot of tickets available:

        • cruel irony duck says:

          I support my family entirely on my UO salary, so no, I cannot afford to attend (paid) events at the Knight Arena.

          When I was a student elsewhere (long ago), it seemed like the university offered heavily discounted (as in, nearly free) tickets to students and faculty. Isn’t this part of being inclusive?

      • thedude says:

        You’re actually not wrong….It would enhance your long term t cell response to Omicron.

        The real thing is Omicron infects and multiplies in your upper respiratory system where you don’t have have the antibodies and t cells to fight it off. That’s why it’s so infectious. When it gets to your blood (where Covid multiples and causes it cause severe disease), the antibodies and t cells still work. So it’s unclear there will every be an effective vaccine to prevent omicron transmission just like we don’t have one to prevent transmission of the common cold…

    • cdsinclair says:

      I’m trying to see how going on Zoom is a waste when something like 30% of my class isn’t in class because of omicron or quarantining. This is not “let’s go on Zoom to save our lives” this is “let’s go on Zoom so we can fulfill the educational mission for our students.”

      At least we should have the flexibility to do what is right for our students based on the situation in the classroom.

    • Saul Goodman says:

      Maybe. I think the issue is not so much avoiding omicron by going online, but avoiding the disruption (to large classes) caused by having close to 50% absent because of quarantining etc. Thus to accommodate such students, the course has to effectively be asynchronous and remote, or some hybrid, etc. At which point it should just be designed that way.

      On the other hand, if we just dispensed with the fig leaf of half-heartedly trying to prevent the spread, we could go ahead with classes as planned, and the outcome would likely be similar: Supercritical with whatever the reproductive number is after imposing these measures is probably not that different to supercritical with the reproductive number without these measures.

    • Dog says:

      I don’t think the issue is about containment of the virus spread. I agree that will continue independent of what universities do. The practical point is, as poster Dorothy has testified, right now we have 2 groups of students. one that can come to a physical class and one that can’t or won’t come to a physical class and then request accommodations at a scale which is not feasible to implement. It is therefore better to put all the students in the same boat of access to the course material. Right now, that boat is remote and then it will evolve back to physical then might have to revolve back to remote. This is our new reality and we need better tools to cope with it.

    • honest Uncle Bernie says:

      dude, I’ll let you go first. Please report back after you get it. I’m glad you’re volunteering for herd immunity duty. Assuming you survive. I wish you the best.

      • thedude says:

        I’m triple moderna vaccinated. If I can’t survive Omicron now, I was never going to survive Covid.

        Both of my Moderna vaccinated parents survived Delta (for my mother it she lost her smell and had a big of cold for two days).

        But what I want is irrelevant. It’s too contagious. We’re all going to get it the next two months. You’re evidently in the denial stage of grief. Try being honest with yourself.

        • just different says:

          Dude, read the piece posted in the Atlantic this morning. Even if we are “all going to get omicron,” it’s still incredibly fucking stupid to be cavalier about it. Mitigation is absolutely worth the inconvenience.

          • thedude says:

            I’m not cavalier. I still wear a mask indoors. I’m vaccinated 3 times with moderna. I’m not having big parties at my house (where most spread still happens) or going to bars or indoors at restaurants.

            But suicidality is way up among teenagers and a 9th grader at South Eugene HS just committed suicide yesterday. Those aspects of public health matter too (UO going zoom is a bell weather for the 4j schools).

            • Walrus says:

              Haven’t you heard? If one Covid death is averted, it’s ok if 100 high school kids kill themselves. If one Covid hospitalization is avoided, we can let 10,000 kids be miserable and depressed. If you think otherwise, you’re some sort of death cultist. That’s what the virtuous say. Doesn’t matter that we have vaccines that are great at minimizing serious illness, doesn’t matter at all.

              • just different says:

                And that makes two people who don’t know the difference between correlation and causation.

              • honest Uncle Bernie says:

                Walrus, that is just sick, nobody has said what you claim.

  3. cdsinclair says:

    I feel like the people making decisions are not very good at observing trends and turning those observations into reasonable predictions, and then basing their decisions on those predictions. They vacillate wildly between “COVID will destroy the university unless we dock your pay” and “everything is normal here, go back to your pre-COVID lives—no exceptions”.

    It’s stunning how bad they are at this. And the people who suffer are not the decision makers (they keep patting themselves on the back about how good they are doing in such a tough job), but the workers. We suffer for their poor decision making.

    • Ticai says:

      We shouldn’t fault decision-makers for being bad at making predictions. Very few people are good at this, and even infectious disease experts have been pretty terrible at predicting the impact of policies they advocate.

      We can still find fault in their behavior. We should be making decisions together with students, faculty, staff, public health experts and county officials. There is no collaboration, decisions come from above and seemingly depend on the opinion of one man.

      • Dog says:

        Erring on the side of caution is a component of ethical based decision making. Its also a component of data driven decision making. No such calculation on the side of caution was made
        this time

        • Ticai says:

          You cannot make a slam-dunk ethical case here. Students do not lean much when we teach them remotely, and remote education is even less effective at reducing transmission with Omicron. “Caution” here depends on what outcomes you want to track. If you observe health, the cautious policy is arguably going remote. But if the concern is education, you can make a good case that meeting in person for now was the cautious thing to do.

          • Dog says:

            according to Immanuel Kant, ethical judgements are the result of consideration of the “greater good”. For me, the greater good is equitable access to course content in this pandemic time. The greater good is not the possible learning distinction between Remote and In-person classes. In my experience, both can be either good or bad in that regard. The current situation has too many students not getting any course content.

          • Compulsory Pessimist says:

            Ticai: “If you observe health, the cautious policy is arguably going remote. But if the concern is education, you can make a good case that meeting in person for now was the cautious thing to do.”

            Oof. Nothing says “We don’t give a damn about human beings” like putting in-person college classes over everyone’s *life.*

            I think you’re right in saying that decisions come from above, but I suspect there is more than just one man’s opinion that counts. Not all the folks presumably at the table (upper admins, the Board, the whole Pandemic Response Team) of course; probably Schill and Knight and Lillis and a few others that have way more behind-the-scenes power. I’m cynical that way.

    • Mike says:

      They’ve also likely got monoclonal treatments available for the well heeled admins and coaches, complete coverage of health care costs and emergency pay support, as well as a bevy of attractive medical staff on hand for the chance it goes badly for em.

  4. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    The provost obviously is a mastermind. Looking for guidance on instructor mask wearing in class, I found the following at The document says at the top, last updated December 13, 2021. Then, there are a series of Q+A. Some of these shown below. Please note the brilliant congruence of A 1 and A 4 below. I asked a professor of logic and rhetoric friend how to make sense of this. He told me it involves something they call “gaslighting.” oh, I see.

    Q: Can an instructor teach in-person classes without a mask if they can maintain at least 6 feet of distance from the students?

    A: No, not at this time. This policy changed on January 4, 2022.

    Q: Can instructors determine for themselves the in-class mask-wearing or social distancing policy for their classrooms?

    A: No, instructors may not determine separate mask-wearing or social distancing policies for their classrooms. For consistency, clarity, and to ensure compliance with public health best practice and regulations, we must all follow the same safety protocols. UO regulations are based upon current local, state, and federal guidance and best practices.

    Q: Will instructors be given a list of who among their students is vaccinated and who is not?

    A: No, this information is HIPAA protected and instructors will not receive lists of students with their vaccination status, nor will they receive information on how many students enrolled in their courses are vaccinated.

    Q: Are there any guidelines for improving comprehensibility when teaching while wearing masks?

    A: If the instructor can maintain 6 ft. distance from students, the instructor can teach without a mask. Instructors can use a microphone. IS Classroom Technology lends microphones and other equipment to faculty, staff, and students. Instructors who cannot maintain 6 ft. distance from students can use a face shield instead. These can be obtained from UO Science Stores.

  5. Ich bin für Impfstoffe says:

    The entire lead administration for the UO should be fired after this. They have no common sense at all! If they hadn’t spent the break looking for a new football coach to pay millions to, they might have considered that 18,000 students returning to class, a large percentage of whom are from other states, would mean our own special surge of Omicron. Just a mess.

    And on that note, every year flu comes through Oregon later than other places in the country. On the basis of that information, couldn’t this completely “science focused” university have extrapolated that maybe our Omicron surge would be a bit later than other places?

    I completely agree with cdsinclair…stunning level of incompetence.

    I also take issue with those above who may not understand why faculty may not want to get Omicron — perhaps they have special health issues or they have children under the age of possible vaccination at home.

    • Dumpster fire says:

      The only problem with firing the “lead administration”, which is nearly always warranted by the way (especially if one reads this blog), is that you have to then replace it.

      • uomatters says:

        By “this blog” I take it you mean the median commenter. As Editor I can say that I have confidence in the leadership of Pres Schill and Prov Phillips. I’ve certainly seen worse. I certainly expect their replacements – when Uncle Phil decides he wants replacements – *will* be worse.

      • Ich bin für Impfstoffe says:

        I think at one point Hofstadter said the US Govt could cease to exist and it wouldn’t affect our regular routine lives for about 6 months. My bet is that we would be more productive in both research and teaching for about 6 months without the UO admin.

        • Anas clypeata says:

          Apparently, that was Calvin Coolidge, well before activist government was tested and found to be useful.
          A better historical reference may be a paraphrase of Douglas Adams: “There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the [administration] is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.” (from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe)

          • Dog says:

            long live the Great Green Arkleseizure …

          • Fishwrapper says:

            It’s not original from that book. On Christmas Eve, 1978, almost two years before he published Restaurant, Adams’ description was offered as a gift to listeners of BBC Radio 4, as the opening lines of the much-anticipated second season (Secondary Phase) of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy radio program – a series that stands in my mind, still, as the apex of creative radio programming.

            • Dog with towel says:

              to yet further nitpick, be persnickety, debate about its it’s, and to yet again offer italics .. it should be pointed out that Anas C is clever and sic the word administration for Universe as directly stated in the Hitchhikers Guide …

              There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

              • Fishwrapper says:

                And to think I saw it’s when it’s its but waited until after I hit the Post Comment button to bother spotting the error. I knew I would take an it[s] hit for the nit I picked. Wise dogs always have their towel handy.

  6. Eternal Skeptic says:

    Agree with Ich bin and Sinclair — and think that some sort of message of no confidence in the leadership needs to be sent, even for just the completely predictable (of at least four weeks!) backpedal that happened exactly 2.5 days into the term. Now we have a situation in which we can’t ask students their status, can’t take attendance to figure out who’s present, aren’t notified about who is positive, but are supposed to pivot — with at least 24 hours notice — to remote if we reach a 20% absence rate because of COVID, which we have no means to calculate. Oh, and now recordings of all lectures are required, too, which was also predictable at least four weeks ago. Avoidable and embarrassing doesn’t begin to describe this debacle.

  7. Tom Don says:

    In other words: read those misaligned bullet points 12 times. Had enough? No? Then call an attorney who will tell you who can do what to whom and why–but my attorney is bigger than yours. And don’t expect any help from the Union or your Department Head or Dean. They are all on my side. Send any old folks or wee folks or IC folks out of your shelter unless they are certified. I’m going to stand up to you at every inch you try to take. Is this clear? It should have been from the beginning.

  8. Jim Bean says:

    Even I would have handled this better than the current Provost!

  9. A Solution says:

    Dear students,

    Happy end to week 1!

    If covid-related absences in this class are 20% or greater, I can request that we shift to synchronous online instruction. This change would be in effect until Feb 7 when we all expect covid to go away.

    So my question is this:

    How many of you are expecting to have a covid-related absence next week? Please let me know ASAP so I can figure out what week 2 will look like.


    Your Professor (for now)

    • honest Uncle Bernie says:

      Are you thinking of jumping ship?

      • Compulsory Pessimist says:

        Who ISN’T contemplating quitting these days? UO is hemorrhaging staff and adjuncts like water through a broken colander. TTFs won’t be too far behind. Eventually only upper admin & Athletics will be left… which I suppose was always the end goal even pre-pandemic. *sigh*

  10. New Year Cat says:

    It amazes me how everyone is all “just a little while, and then we can all go back to normal”. That’s not going to happen. We are damned lucky omicron is not only very transmissable but comparatively mild. The one that is very transmissable and more virulent may be right around the corner. Or not. We have NO actual ablity to see into the future on this, but the administration and people in general as well insist on predicting a happy outcome in just a little while. Soon it will be 2019 again!
    At this point we need to prepare for totally online classes and work for most, both for the moment and for “just in case”. And students need to (be helped to?) adapt to the concept that “normal” is not going to be what it was in 2019 for, well, maybe from here on out. And BTW not to harp, but students and faculty and people in general all had a hell of a lot of adapting to do in WWII, including rationing of gas, being drafted and maybe killed, saving aluminum and wheat for the war effort, etc. etc. Yet people survived and went on to build a thriving country. Maybe we need less worry about comforting student “stress” and more emphasis on “courage” and “resilience” and the “adaptation to change” that is always touted in HR workshops but never actually adopted by the university itself. The more one concentrates on one’s own woes, the weaker one can become and the more stressed out. Students, faculty, staff: our future will likely always include Zoom in some version, because videoconferencing can be helpful and inclusive as a medium for the hearing-impaired (I find it so) and those who may be temporarily or permanently disabled. It’s a great boon to work-related meetings, esp. since those can be recorded. It is not helpful if one does not have internet access though, so that’s an area the universities should be looking at.

    • just different says:

      Ah, for the days when we thought of ourselves as a single country and patriotically complied with rationing, even when it was probably unnecessary. Look at how well “we don’t know yet” plays these days, especially when it’s accompanied by “we’re imposing restrictions just to be safe.”

      • cruel irony duck says:

        I suppose we all pine for the unity that WWII brought, as much of an evil as it was. There’s a lot to be said for clarity, having a situation in which it’s obvious what the right thing to do is, even if it is difficult. Few then needed to be convinced–the situation was self-evident.

        Our current circumstances are quite different. The country is fairly evenly (and sincerely) divided on major questions, and even Fauci and CDC are in disagreement on what seem like pretty straightforward points (to non-scientists like me). A range of countries that seem otherwise sober and reasonable are taking wildly different tacks on all of this.

        Layer on that the poisonous politics of the moment, and any reasonable person could be forgiven for just saying, “I’m not sure.”. Or even, “This all sounds like horse-droppings to me.”.

        The beatings will continue, certainly, but morale may take a bit longer. Perhaps it will work as policy, but I can’t recall it ever working in my personal life.

    • Compulsory Pessimist says:

      Preach, New Year Cat!!

  11. Craig O'ThePlague says:

    They sure timed the release of the email well with the delayed release of the 222 student cases on 1/4/21

    • ScienceDuck says:

      To be fair, the case page has been updating daily student cases only weekly, so they are putting up the daily numbers earlier than normal. I suspect that they are also struggling to keep up with all the tests, rather than this being a plot to withhold information.

      I’m feeling thankful we have the MAP testing resource available.

      • Dog says:

        well if you have a phenomena in your lab that doubles every 2 days (maybe 3 days) and you only do weekly sampling, well …

        • ScienceDuck says:

          I’m sure that is why they are trying to get the numbers out faster now, since the timely information is more important than it was in the fall. Either way, I was just pointing out that the “delayed release” was not some admin plot, just the hard-working MAP team dealing with a flood of testing.

  12. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    So the Phillips and Schill are ordering us to record our classes, but giving no assistance to make this happen. I await the IT person who will show up to my class to do the recording. Or perhaps Lord Schill himself will appear, I’m sure he’s on top of this technology. Otherwise I have a feeling it’s not going to happen. Oh, maybe a TA will figure it out and make it happen. Terrific!

    • XDH says:

      HUB – read my post below. Your frustration is exactly why I sent my comments in. Like you, I read the many missives from our Johnson Hall overlords today, but none of them provided an inkling on how to successfully accomplish what we are now mandated to do (i.e., record our lectures). I am doing OK using Zoom in a classroom that is definitely NOT hyflex, but different teaching styles might require alternate methods of recording lectures. Good luck!

      • honest Uncle Bernie says:

        XDH — thanks for the info/encouragement. Perhaps it is easier than I think. I’m sure it is. Kind of like fixing my car. My mechanic can diagnose and fix that pesky “check engine” thing in no time. Perhaps the admins or IT or someone will hold classes on this or just do it. If not, I suspect it ain’t gonna happen. But perhaps Schill and Phillips will volunteer to take over for us. Or perhaps this is all just CYA. In an odd way, it feels kind of like when Trump, and now Biden it seems, just told us we were on our own, and to go fuck ourselves. They are great communicators, the message comes through loud and clear.

        • XDH says:

          Neither the Johnson Hall overlords nor IT will come to our rescue. We will have to bootstrap this ourselves if we are to have any chance of pulling this off. “Hell, you successfully taught online last AY. Just use some of the same tricks!” is what I expect them to say. Disheartening, but you and I have been here long enough to know Johnson Hall won’t lift a frickin’ finger to help its faculty because of our “resilience and fortitude” (or whatever other stupid platitudes they put in their mindless email missives).

    • Heraclitus says:

      The requirement is that we record our lectures. I don’t see anything about recording them *well* so that the recordings are actually useful. We all know that this is a CYA move by admin, and should act accordingly as good team members, even if we didn’t get that memo. Prop your phone up on the lectern and have at it.

  13. XDH says:

    I already have more than 20% in my class out, so all this week I’ve been teaching in person, broadcasting my lecture live over Zoom for those who cannot attend in person, and recording on Zoom too for folks to watch later. Fortunately, given the way I teach my class, it is really no big deal to do all of this. Good luck colleagues, as the next 4 weeks are going to be a giant çlüsterfüçk.