Students vote with their feet, ditch class because of Omicron

Last week the Provost told us the students wanted to be taught in person and we had adequate omicron protocols in place, so we started the term in person instead of online as so many of our peers did. But now it seems 25%-50% of our students are not showing up for classes, and are needing accommodations. So today the Academic Council is debating how to tell the faculty to respond. Recording lectures? Go back to online for a while? Dual mode? It would have been helpful to have had this discussion a few weeks ago.

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18 Responses to Students vote with their feet, ditch class because of Omicron

  1. Dog says:

    I agree 100%. I don’t even think the UO knows how to act in a proactive manner. It was easy to see a few weeks that the timing of the O spread would come to Oregon at exactly about this time.

    It was even more obvious a few weeks ago that the UO needed contingency plan.

    Instead we just react (all faculty now have to wear masks when teaching) and execute continuous positive spin. Not even electrons can do that. …

    • uomatters says:

      Always with the negative charges, Dog. Can’t you think like a proton every now and then?

      • Dog says:

        oh protons are much more complicated than electrons and can also be quite duplicitous and ambiguous and are always mysterious. Indeed, perhaps UO should rebrand itself to be the UO protons.

  2. Observer says:

    I’m wondering if the UO has established a point in which we go online. How many diagnoses would it take? 300 a week? (We are at 154.) 1000? Half the campus? At the moment we are flying blind and trusting to luck. I wish I had more confidence that someone on high had a plan beyond “It will be fine, la la la.”

  3. stay the messy course says:

    Part of the issue is that under current instructions, students are told to stay home if they don’t feel well. In any winter quarter, about 1/3 of any class is sniffling, and now they’re staying home. That happened last quarter and it’s going to be worse all of this quarter. As a guesstimate, 20% just got stuck traveling this week, a temporary issue. On top are the actual covid cases and self-quarantining because they were exposed to a positive case – that should even out in a month.
    We should have gone remote for the first two weeks and let the initial wave wash over. That was kind of a no-brainer, but here we are. At this point we should just stay the course, and post the notes, and resign to another messy term. But it will be irritating to be instructed to go hybrid at this moment.
    BTW, anybody get useful numbers of student evaluation comments last term?

  4. Anonymous says:

    I agree, Dog. Especially about the masks while lecturing (they give me a headache and I’m not prone to headaches) … and a contingency plan. In the University’s defense, the dogma for the past year and a half is that mass vaccination and masks will protect everyone from C19. Clearly not. Most of campus is vaccinated. Yet, I’ve never seen as many students not able to come to class in the first week of winter term because of illness and flight cancellations, and I’ve been teaching for a long time.
    I anticipated this in advance so that I wouldn’t be caught scrambling to change my class mid-term like what happened March of 2020. I have in-class lectures but don’t require attendance and live stream and Zoom record my lectures. I will give my exams through Canvas. Office hours are via Zoom or in-person if arranged ahead of time. I can go totally on-line without disruption.

  5. Dorothy says:

    I was suprised by the number of students who simply haven’t shown up–because of air travel or Covid mostly. It has required lots of rescheduling because of the nature of my teaching, which depends on students showing up and doing their part in class. The bad choices have already been made. The Union is not especially concerned about older faculty or vulnerable people in our homes or extended households. The academic council has no real knowledge of all the different ways we run our courses or how many years and how much effort we have put into our assignments and scheduling and grading. They made it very difficult for me last year when a couple of students brought demands based on the Council’s recommendations.

    The best course would have been to follow the process that most universities followed. Too late now. I love teaching in person. I’m very happy to be with my students again. I am not happy about the risks I am taking. Waiting for the surge to pass would have allowed us to plan carefully, teach for a few weeks online, reassure our students of the likelihood of our return, and protect the vulnerable in our households and community. It’s hard to see how we could easily manage the promised pivot even if we wanted to do. I feel taken.

  6. Silenus says:

    UO admins, who conduct most of their meetings via Zoom these days, pretend that in-person instruction should be just fine for everyone else since they claim the campus provides a “safe” bubble. The problem with this presupposition is that UO is part of a larger community across which omicron is currently raging out of control (6,200 cases and 20.6% positivity rate today in Oregon with over 500 cases and 15.7% positivity in Lane County). By compelling students and faculty to return to face-to-face instruction without social distancing in classrooms that have varying degrees of ventilation and without doing anything to maintain some degree of consistency when it comes to the quality of masks that are worn, we’re just adding fuel to the pandemic fire right now. Anyone who claims that in-person instruction is not exacerbating the spread of omicron has their head in the sand.

  7. Concerned Party says:

    Teachers actually have the power here. We could strike.

  8. Saul Goodman says:

    I teach one small and one large (~100 person) 100-level class. Upwards of 20% of the large class have sent me emails saying either they were exposed and are in quarantine or have positive covid tests. Another 5-10% had travel difficulties. It will only get worse from here. Attendance will soon be minimal, as notes and other materials are necessarily migrating online for those who are ill or otherwise in quarantine. What is the point of remaining in person? It isn’t clear that a 100 person lecture with all the material online (to accommodate sick students) is pedagogically better than a Zoom class.

    I am angry at this situation, not because I mind teaching in person (I do not), but because this outcome was predictable with close to certainty. Now I am answering a constant stream of emails about accommodations; this could all have been avoided.

    The small class of juniors and seniors seems to be going fine.

    So some nuance should be applied — classes which benefit from in person instruction (labs, smaller classes, etc) should remain as such, but large lecture classes might as well go fully remote.

    • Dog says:

      some of us have been saying this to deaf ears for years, independent of pandemic status. Basically, there are two kinds of courses at the UO: information courses and mentoring courses.

      The former can easily be ON line – the latter is pretty difficult
      to do ON line – thus there seems an obvious practical strategy when there is actually a pandemic.

  9. Busfac says:

    I have some sympathy for the decision makers here. The tough variable to forecast was the exact timing and duration of the wave. To me the most likely outcome is three bad weeks followed by a rapid return to “normal”. I think the best way forward is to give individual faculty complete flexibility on how to navigate January (including the option of going fully remote) with an eye towards being back fully in-person in February.

    • uomatters says:

      The Academic Council is not going to give faculty this kind of flexibility. Instead courses will continue to be in person (except if instructor is positive) and faculty will be required to provide some sort of accommodation for students who decide not to come to class – for whatever reason, because we can’t ask reasons.

    • Dog says:

      I disagree on the timing issue, all data indicated by mid december
      that by mid January it would be here, likely in peak form – hence I have no sympathy for our decision makers – the issue,
      still not well known, is wave duration – so far it does appear to be
      not more than 6 weeks.

  10. Dorothy says:

    More requests for accommodation in my box this morning, some from late last night. All from sick students. One reports of symptoms that are not mild. Some require individual attention and accommodation. I will likely have to re-organize the first weeks of one of my courses. This could have been prevented. We didn’t have to take this risky option. Most universities did not.

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