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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University Alumni Association hosts anti-racism webinar Tuesday, Sep 22 2020 

By Victoria Doll —

The University of Louisville Alumni Association recently hosted an event in response to widespread racial unrest titled “Anti-Racism, Justice and Safety: Compatible or Conflicting Concepts?”

The event was moderated by College of Arts and Sciences Dean David Owens, and included Cherie Dawson-Edwards, associate dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Aishia Brown, assistant professor of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences; and Keturah Herron, a policy strategist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky.

The conversation began as Owens asked how to reshape our community to make it safer and more humane for all.

Brown advised people to study history. She encouraged people to examine how polices already in place could be racist or have outcomes that have harmed the black and brown community.

Dawson-Edwards said her goal in educating people about anti-racism is to engage in deeper conversations about race despite the discomfort it sometimes brings.

The conversation around racism played into the discussion of the settlement between the city of Louisville and Breonna Taylor’s family. The settlement, which included $12 million paid to the Taylor family, included building community relations between the LMPD and the communities they police.

Herron, who was instrumental in the passing of Breonna’s Law, was excited and hopeful about this part of the settlement but remains hesitant and skeptical about how the policies are going to be implemented.

“It’s imperative that we take community engagement seriously,” Brown said, adding that there needs to be a way to hold people accountable. She said there needs to be guidelines to begin engagement between black citizens and police.

The panelists all agreed that there needs to be emphasis on the idea that the Breonna Taylor case is a race issue, not just an accident.

“To say her death isn’t about race is wrong. The aftermath has been about race. There needs to be awareness around the fact that Black women are treated differently by the state and in society,” Herron said.

The webinar ended with a conversation about how white people can be allies and promote accountability. Dawson-Edwards said that people need to learn from their missteps.

“Trust black women. Don’t try to explain it away. Listen, it will be uncomfortable, but you have to listen,” she said. “Own what you did, tell us how you aren’t going to do that again, don’t do it again, get in line and let’s move on.”

At the end of the event, the panelists encouraged people to educate themselves on instances of police brutality in America and to listen to the people of color in their communities.

“Acknowledge that there has been change, but we still need to push for more. This same thing can happen again if something is not done,” Dawson-Edwards said.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L suspends searches for provost and A&S dean Friday, Mar 27 2020 

By Eli Hughes —

Interim Dean of College of Arts and Sciences David Owen announced March 23 that the University of Louisville’s search for a new A&S dean and a new provost will be suspended until the fall due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Owen said in the email announcement that the searches are suspended because it is not currently possible to conduct in-person interviews for the jobs.

“I count myself fortunate to lead A&S during these trying times—you all have truly demonstrated the Cardinal spirit in the past few weeks, and it is this spirit that makes us a community of care, and a family,” Owen said.

Owen shared in the email that he would stay on as interim dean until a new dean is selected. John Karman, director of media relations for U of L, confirmed that Provost Beth Boehm will also remain in her position until the new provost is selected.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L in the midst of a hiring freeze during COVID-19 crisis Friday, Mar 20 2020 

By Matthew Keck —

Amid all of the craziness surrounding the COVID-19 virus, the University of Louisville has placed a faculty hiring freeze in place.

U of L spokesman John Karman confirmed this. “All hiring is paused except for special circumstances,” he said.

This hiring freeze was set in place for two reasons: The economic impact felt from the COVID-19 crisis and U of L is expecting enrollment in the fall to go down. Arts & Sciences Dean David Owen said that they will be preparing and planning for the consequences of both possibilities.

Any prospect where letters of offer have been sent will not be affected by this freeze. The freeze applies to term lines, including new ones, along with on-going lines that are being vacated or filled.

In addition, all hiring of staff will be suspended immediately and is subject to the review of Dean Owen. “I know that we are already running below necessary staffing levels, but I will have to balance the desperate need for adequate staffing with the increasingly dire budget forecasts,” he said in an email.

There is no set timeline for how long this hiring freeze will be in place.

“How long this is in effect depends on how long the pandemic affects us and what the budgetary impact ends up being,” said Dean Owen.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal 

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Interim A&S College Dean is looking to make a positive impact Monday, Jan 13 2020 

By Matthew Keck —

After one week on the job, Arts & Sciences College interim Dean David Owen feels like he is already settled into his new position.

“I think she [Kempf-Leonard] left the college in solid shape,” said Owen. But this doesn’t mean there isn’t any work to be done. Owen shared his goals for his tenure Jan. 2, and one of them is keeping morale in a progressive state.

Kempf-Leonard focused on this during her five-year tenure. Owen said that although this area can be challenging, the place the College is in right now gives him a lot to work with and maintain this progress.

“They’re happy that we’re going to really do some intentional work on morale,” said Owen. “So I’m hearing feedback, positive feedback about that.”

He said he’s also fortunate that there hasn’t been any mention of budget cuts so far. “We don’t know yet exactly about [budget cuts], but everybody seems to be anticipating more or less a steady state budget, which is good news,” said Owen.

While keeping morale at a good place is a major priority, Owen wants to pass off the College to the next dean in a good place. “I need to be sure that I hand to the next dean a College that’s in as good shape as possible,” he said. “And that means having a good budget for next year.”

As the University of Louisville moves to a new budget model this year, Owen knows this is going to be a challenge he faces, but he is already praising his associate deans and staff for being helping hands along the way. “We have really great associate and assistant deans, [and] great senior staff over here,” he said. “They’ll make sure the college keeps running smoothly.”

Owen also wants to focus more on retention within the A&S College. One of the ways he plans on doing that is by becoming more visible to the students in the College. “My job is to make it so that students can flourish in their educational career,” he said.

Since he has already been serving as chair of philosophy, this won’t be as much of a challenge for him. “I do know a lot of students, and it’s nice to walk across campus and talk to students,” said Owen. “I think that’s helpful to know students, and I’m teaching this term, so getting to learn, getting to meet and get to know some newer students in my class [will help].”

Similar to Kempf-Leonard, one of the reasons he took on the role as interim dean was to help others. Along with teaching this semester, he said that he feels taking on this role will re-energize him while also making an impact on the College.

“I think we’re prepared to grow and move into the 2020s,” said Owen.

Photo Courtesy of The University of Louisville 

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