Dean Owen indicates no change in course delivery policy Wednesday, Jan 12 2022 


By Madelin Shelton — 

College of Arts and Sciences Interim Dean David Owen responded to the uproar from faculty over the university’s policy of mandated in-person courses and reaffirmed the university’s stance.

After U of L Interim President Lori Gonzalez sent out an announcement to the entire university community informing them that the semester would be conducted as originally planned for both in-person and virtual courses, Owen sent out a reminder on Jan. 7 to A&S faculty reminding them to conduct courses how they were described in the Schedule of Courses.

A&S faculty began voicing their frustrations to the dean in an email chain over the weekend.

Owen sent a note to A&S department chairs on Sunday, Jan. 9. “I told them it was their responsibility to make sure these courses were taught as they were advertised,” Owen said. He said he expected faculty to abide by university policy, and failure to follow said policy could result in accountability, including disciplinary action.

Some of the deans and faculty viewed this as Owen threatening the faculty with punishment if they failed to teach the courses through their original method. He acknowledged that some individuals perceived this note as a threat, but Owen claims he was simply referring to the expectation that faculty abide by university policy.

Faculty complained the policy is inflexible for individuals who are, for example, vaccinated themselves but have young children at home who are unable to get one. When asked about this type of specific circumstance, Owen referenced U of L’s ability to maintain face-to-face courses throughout the pandemic the last year by implementing health protocols like masking and social distancing. He also mentioned the university’s vaccination rate of over 90 percent.

“Nothing has changed really in this occurrence,” he said. “You know, it’s a particular spike of a new variant but we’ve dealt with spikes in variants before while remaining on campus.”

He continued, “If faculty or staff have particular health concerns, whether it’s with their own health or health of family members in their household, whether they’re children or parents that might be living with them or somebody who’s immunocompromised, we have a family medical leave policy that can account for that. Folks have applied for that in those circumstances.” Faculty are not permitted to teach, even virtually, should they choose a family medical leave option.

Owen said the university crafts policy that prioritizes equity and accounts for all faculty, staff and students. However, some individuals have criticized this policy as detracting from equity. Dr. Tracy K’Meyer, a Professor of History at U of L, spoke on this point.

“In the dean’s note, he referenced treating everybody equitably. Part of it is that’s kind of a misuse of the term equitably. Equity doesn’t mean treating everybody the same, it means treating people based on their own circumstances.”

More than just faculty have spoken out against the university’s policy. A petition opposing it sponsored by the U of L chapter of United Campus Workers has over 1,500 signatures from faculty, staff, students and other community members.

The U of L chapter of the American Association of University Professors and the College of A&S Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee have released statements in opposition to the policy.

Owen did clarify that faculty were never given the autonomy throughout the pandemic to teach courses in a way that diverged from the chosen method listed in the original Schedule of Courses, unless they were exposed to or tested positive for COVID-19 and temporarily needed to move instruction online. During periods when all courses were taught virtually due to the pandemic, it was a university-wide policy.

When asked if the university planned on changing its policy in response to the significant pushback it has received, Owen said “My understanding is there is no intention to change the policy at the university level and that is what I will follow.” However, he did mention that President Gonzalez and her team were constantly monitoring the ever-evolving circumstances of the pandemic and could change policy when deemed necessary.

Photo Courtesy // University of Louisville

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Faculty bristle at mandated in-person instruction during COVID-19 pandemic Tuesday, Jan 11 2022 

By Madelin Shelton — 

U of L started the Spring semester in controversy this week, as the administration has received pushback for requiring faculty to teach in-person.

College of Arts & Sciences Dean David Owen sent a reminder to faculty Jan. 4 of the university’s COVID-19 policy. Included in the policy was a refusal to allow faculty to change the modality of the courses. That’s the way courses are delivered as set out in the Schedule of Courses, such as face-to-face or virtually.

Dozens of faculty expressed outrage at the perceived lack of flexibility in the policy, as it doesn’t appear to allow professors to switch from teaching face-to-face to online —even temporarily—unless they must isolate due to COVID exposure or illness.

Faculty members expressed concern for colleagues with children who are not old enough to receive the vaccine, and who see switching to online instruction as the best way to protect their families.

Dr. Tracy K’Meyer, a Professor of History at U of L, described her initial response to the policy. “This idea that we would, across the board, have no flexibility sparked a gut reaction in me that said that’s not fair, that’s not right.”

K’Meyer also said that as far as she knew, there was no appeal or exemption process for faculty to follow. One of her colleagues requested to conduct the first two weeks of classes online because she had a baby too young to be vaccinated, but her request was allegedly denied by university administration.

Owen is reported to have contacted the department chairs in the College of A&S Sunday to tell them that in-person classes were not to be moved to an online format and violating that policy could result in disciplinary action.

At a regularly scheduled College of A&S meeting on Monday that included Owen and A&S faculty, Owen reiterated that he was taking the stance on the policy that Interim President Lori Gonzalez had taken and that there was “no wiggle room.”

There is a petition signed by more than 500 professors, staff, students and other U of L community members opposing the policy.

“The University of Louisville Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) fully supports the autonomy of University of Louisville Faculty and their right to make flexible choices concerning course delivery modality for the Spring 2022 semester,” the U of L AAUP chapter said in a statement. “Foregrounded in academic professionalism, the desire for flexibility is intended to promote student learning and success in these times of anxiety and uncertainty.”

The College of A&S Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee also came out in opposition to the policy. “The College of Arts and Sciences’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee stands in support and solidarity with A&S faculty, staff, and students’ right to teach, work, and learn in any modality that supports their health and safety. In conjunction with A&S leadership, any change to course, work, or learning modalities will uphold ‘our mission of providing an excellent education for our students while also ensuring the health and safety of everyone in the process.’”

The Louisville Cardinal reached out to Owen for an interview that was scheduled for this past Saturday concerning this issue, but it was canceled by his office. Further reporting on this issue will take place after a rescheduled interview.

Photo Courtesy // The Courier-Journal

 

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New Cultural and Equity Center aims to increase inclusivity on campus Monday, Nov 1 2021 

By Tate Luckey —

On October 22nd, the University of Louisville reopened its new Cultural and Equity Center inside the new Belknap Residence Hall. The upgraded facility features the Cultural Center, LGBT Center, Women’s Center, and various study/multipurpose rooms for students of all backgrounds.

This reopening comes after the University was recognized for the 8th year as a Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award recipient, joining other universities like Clemson and Florida State. “Now that we have a whole building, and there are banners and flags all over it, we’ll get a lot more attention. I think it does help U of L become a more diverse campus,” junior Agustina Cisterna said.

Ashton Beckham, Porter scholar and finance major, felt similarly but thinks that the university can do a bit more. “I do think U of L is diverse, but I wish [the university] put more effort into enrolling black students in honors-level courses,” he said. “[The new space] is definitely better than the space in Strickler.”

The new center provides a more centralized location for the various diversity departments around campus. “It’s a really modern space that offers many helpful resources. Students of color now have easier access to the Parrish LLC, which is very convenient,” Beckham said.

In an interview with U of L News, President Neeli Bendapudi said that the center represents one of many major efforts the university has made in striving to become anti-racist and more inclusive to the entire Cardinal community.

If you’d like to learn more about the space and programs it offers, you can do so here. 

File Photos // Facebook, The Louisville Cardinal 

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New and revamped positions contribute to cardinal anti-racism agenda Friday, Apr 16 2021 

By Madelin Shelton —

As part of U of L’s goal of becoming a premier anti-racist institution, the university has detailed its efforts to create new and revamped diversity-focused positions.

The varied positions have a variety of responsibilities, including creating an inclusive culture on campus, improving retention and graduation rates among minority students, recruiting minority faculty, creating better opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses to work with the university and more.

These revamped and new positions include the following:

  • Brigitte Burpo, assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, College of Education and Human Development
  • Valerie Clay, coordinator for diversity, equity and inclusion, J.B. Speed School of Engineering
  • Crystal Rae Coel, assistant dean for student affairs and diversity, Brandeis School of Law
  • Cherie Dawson-Edwards, associate dean for diversity, engagement, culture and climate, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Marc D. Ellis, assistant director of procurement diversity and inclusion, Office of Procurement Services
  • Audra French, assistant director of student affairs and diversity equity and inclusion, School of Dentistry
  • Amalia Gomez, Latinx admissions counselor, Office of Admissions
  • Leondra Gully, director of Black and multicultural initiatives, Cultural Center
  • Anna Hinton, assistant dean for administration and diversity, equity and inclusion, School of Dentistry
  • Trinidad Jackson, assistant dean for culture and liberation, School of Public Health & Information Sciences
  • Emma Sterrett-Hong, associate dean of equity and inclusion, Kent School of Social Work
  • Nakia Strickland, associate director for diversity engagement, U of L Alumni Association
  • Morgan West, new student financial aid advisor, Office of Financial Affairs

In addition to the above, the university also said that the Cultural Center will be filling a director position for Hispanic, Latino and Indigenous initiatives, and new positions are being considered in other U of L departments.

When discussing these positions and how they fit into the Cardinal Anti-Racism Agenda, U of L President Neeli Bendapudi outlined that anti-racism is about believing that skin color does not confer any inherent inferiority or superiority to anybody else and that these positions help advance that idea.

“Being an anti-racist university means that on the individual level and the structural level, we examine what we are doing to see if we have conditions in place to make it possible for every human that’s here to achieve their full potential and not have their race be a factor in that,” she said.

Bendapudi explained that these new and revamped positions indicate that these ideals aren’t happening in one place, but that every school and every unit are taking it seriously.

For how these positions foster a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion Bendapudi said that these positions will ensure that U of L is trying to stay diverse. In addition, they will help foster equity by being close to problems and being able to argue and advocate for equity.

“Having all these people visible in each unit is an invitation to others and hopefully makes them feel more included,” Bendapudi said.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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