UofL decision to stay in-person causes backlash, petition

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 3:52 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The University of Louisville’s decision to remain in-person for the start of the spring semester has nearly 1,500 students, staff, and community members worried about their safety.

The United Campus Workers Union, which represents UofL faculty and staff, created a petition calling on the university to provide more transparency on several of their COVID-19 policies.

This includes detailing COVID-19 campus data, requiring weekly testing for unvaccinated individuals instead of monthly, bringing meaningful consequences for those who don’t follow the COVID-19 mitigation rules, allowing more flexibility for staff to work from home if possible, and providing hazard pay for essential faculty.

The petition, which launched on Friday, racked up nearly 1,500 signatures from students, staff, and the surrounding community as of Wednesday.

UofL sent a letter to parents and students over winter break explaining the decision to remain in-person, using three main points.

The university wrote 91 percent of students and staff are vaccinated, and its working to obtain the number of people who have received the booster.

In addition, the university said the risk of severe disease in vaccinated people is low, and remote learning had a negative impact on students’ academic success and mental health.

UofL issued WAVE 3 News this statement further explaining the decision:

“The university’s commitment to face-to-face instruction was made in the best interest of our students. In-room instruction has been deemed safe, particularly for vaccinated individuals, and students in general perform much better when courses are offered face-to-face.

While it is true that faculty are not permitted to switch modality except in response to illness or compliance with quarantine and isolation protocols, it is also true that faculty are encouraged to develop and share continuity of instruction plans to ensure they are providing a high-quality educational experience in situations in which they are temporarily unable to conduct class in person.

Because the science shows that classroom learning is safe and more effective, we feel it is vital to provide the best educational experience possible for our students.”

However, some union members questioned the decision.

“The academic success of students is obviously very important, but is it worth risking lives and quality of lives in order to keep bodies on campus?” Sarah French, a United Campus Workers Union and UofL graduate teaching assistant said.

One faculty member who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation told WAVE 3 News it’s possible the university’s decision to stay in person isn’t motivated by students’ well-being and academic success, but by money.

“We have fully online degree programs; they advertise it on the radio in the morning, so if they really thought the online experience was subpar, they would want (in-person learning) for all of their students, but they’re not doing that,” the faculty member said. “I suspect this is about getting bodies on campus to pay for the ancillaries of parking and meal plans and housing.”

The university said it would provide two KN95 masks to every student and staff member who wants one.

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