Staff at University of Iowa debut pledge to teach online, want people to sign petition encouraging fully online learning

Published: Aug. 4, 2020 at 7:17 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - In three weeks, tens of thousands students at the University of Iowa are returning to campus.

The school is currently planning to hold classes in person, with a limit of 50 students per class. Masks are also required inside buildings. But some of the professors leading those courses are concerned- and it has led them to start a petition and pledge to encourage the university to go entirely online.

On August 24, Connor Clark and other students at the University of Iowa are heading back to class. Clark, a second-year pharmacy school student, knows his laptop keyboard will get some extra work, with some of his classes going online; but he would prefer the alternative of meeting in-person to learn.

“I would much rather be in class,” Clark said. “You don’t get the personal experience being online, you don’t interact with your professors, you don’t interact with people in your classes.”

Clark has already had a lesson in COVID-19: he says he tested positive a few weeks back.

“It really didn’t affect me at all, I was pretty asymptomatic,” Clark said. “So I’m not personally worried, and I know a lot of my friends really aren’t either.”

While Clark is not worried, at least 280 staff members at the University of Iowa are. Some graduate assistants and faculty signed a pledge to move all instruction online.

“I think what we need to be doing here is recognizing that in some way, we all very much need to be on the same side,” Megan Knight, an associate professor at the university, said. “And the side we need to be on is the side of saving lives and protecting each other.”

Knight says in a full effort of safety, the university should mandate virtual classes. She understands why some students might feel like Clark, with a feeling of “FOMO-” an acronym for the fear of missing out.

“I’m concerned too,” Knight said. “I share your concerns, absolutely. This is one gigantic, nationwide, four and a half month long FOMO situation.”

A spokesperson for the University of Iowa said they have been in contact with some of the faculty members that have expressed concern, emphasizing the university is allowing students, faculty, and staff to apply for a “Temporary Alternative Learning Arrangement” and “Temporary Alternative Work Arrangements.” The statement said considering how large the UI population is, there are varied opinions in regards to how the reopening process should look.

The statement reads in part:

“Our goal is to provide as much choice and certainty as possible to our campus community while aligning with guidance from; the Board of Regents, State of Iowa; the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH); and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The university has taken significant steps to minimize exposure to COVID-19 including:

  • Reducing campus density
  • Modifying classrooms and facilities to promote social distancing
  • Providing and mandating cloth face coverings
  • Enhanced cleaning and disinfection”

Clark says he understands why some people might feel nervous. If they are, they should be allowed to go online.

“Because your personal safety and your personal well being is much more important than going to class on a daily basis,” Clark said.

But both say what should not happen: leaving people feeling unsafe.

To view the petition and pledge, click here.

Copyright 2020 KCRG. All rights reserved.

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