U of L makes concessions in course delivery policy Wednesday, Jan 26 2022 

By Madelin Shelton —

The university has announced flexibility in its course delivery policy after significant pushback from the U of L community.

Faculty are now allowed to temporarily shift their mode of instruction from face-to-face to virtual and use remote work options in accordance with their supervisor or department chair. U of L updated the Emergency Temporary Leave Guidelines to reflect the new standards, along with the policy on flexible scheduling.

Guidelines for faculty are summarized as follows:

  • Express your specific request to your immediate department chair.
  • If you’re concerned that your chair is not granting you flexibility outlined in the current policy and guidelines, contact your dean.
  • If you’re concerned that neither your chair nor dean are granting you flexibility outlined in the current policy and guidelines, contact the Office of the Provost (provost@louisville.edu).

Guidelines for staff are as follows:

  • Express your specific request to your immediate supervisor.
  • If you’re concerned that your supervisor is not granting you flexibility outlined in the current policy and guidelines, contact the next level(s) of supervision.
  • If you’ve exhausted all levels of supervision in your chain of command and are still concerned, contact HR’s Employee Relations Team (emrelate@louisville.edu).

“The guidelines and policy mentioned below are in place to support our faculty and staff while still offering the highest level of instruction and service to our students. They are meant to be short-term solutions, and do not suggest that faculty may switch modes of course delivery for the entire semester,” the university said in a statement.

The change of course comes after U of L faced extensive criticism for requiring faculty to teach in-person unless they were sick with or exposed to COVID-19. The U of L Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, College of A&S Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee and the United Campus Workers all spoke out against the original policy. A petition sponsored by the UCW demanding more flexibility in course delivery policy and stricter COVID-19 regulations garnered over 1,700 signatures. The UCW also held a rally and expressed opposition to the policy at a board of trustees meeting last week.

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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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