While some students are happy about not taking online classes for most of the fall semester, some VSU faculty members are concerned about health risks that may occur with the university’s new contingency plan.
Following the release of the contingency plan on July 2, VSU faculty came together to write a letter that voices their concerns and suggests modifications to the plan.
“I cannot speak on behalf of all faculty, but I do know that there are a number of us here at VSU and system-wide who are still very concerned about fall plans,” Dr. Nicholas Miller, assistant professor of English, said.
VSU faculty aren’t the only ones who have raised concerns about returning to campus. Georgia Southern University’s faculty have also created a petition that was released on July 4 with the same concerns and modifications that VSU’s faculty are suggesting.
Some of the same modifications suggested by both of the university’s faculty include giving professors the choice to teach online instead of face-to-face, free COVID-19 testing available on campus, and safe housing for students who need to quarantine.
VSU’s faculty letter has not been sent yet but currently has 85 faculty signatures. It will be sent to Governor Brian Kemp, the University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley, the Board of Regents and VSU President Richard Carvajal.
Along with several health concerns, Dr. Miller said some VSU faculty also have other questions about the contingency plan that they want answered.
“The ethical questions about requiring medical documentation to seek accommodations in the middle of a pandemic remains a big concern for faculty. There is also the recent revelation that the person responsible for those decisions at VSU is not part of Human Resources, which concerns some of us,” he said. “And there are other larger questions that still need to be addressed by Kemp and other leaders—particularly the recent ICE announcement about international students, which feels like a direct act of retaliation against those who have been fighting against holding face-to-face classes in the fall.”
Wearing face masks was another modification that VSU faculty wanted to see changed in the contingency plan, but on July 6 USG announced that it will be mandatory to wear face masks on campus.
Some faculty members were pleased about the new requirement, but others still want to see bigger changes made to the contingency plan.
“So, I definitely want to acknowledge how important the new mask mandate is, while also pointing out that we should be careful about applauding leadership for doing the bare minimum when it comes to public health. There are definitely larger concerns that still exist,” Dr. Miller said.
Dr. Miller said that he is proud of all the signatures the letter has received thus far but encourages other VSU faculty members to sign the letter to show their support for the importance of safety for all VSU students, faculty, and staff.
“I am heartened by the conversations I have had with other VSU workers, and I am proud of my colleagues who are working through other channels to make community safety and student education top priorities,” he said.
Written by Lenah Allen,Campus Life Editor. Photo courtesy of Bethany Davis, Graphics Designer.