FAS Senate seeks feedback from professors on return to in-person teaching
The university’s rector clarified accommodation policies and mask guidelines before the start of the term.
Zoe Berg, Photo Editor
In-person learning at Yale is back for the fall semester – but not all faculty agree with what they say is a one-sided policy that ignores social distancing guidelines or those whose members of the the family are vulnerable.
Last week, University officials sent a note to professors that allows them to teach remotely for the first week if it is “impossible” to teach in person; However, long-term accommodation remains difficult to find, which is causing some concern among professors.
The FAS Senate recently sent out a survey to faculty, which ends this Friday, which allows them to anonymously share their opinions about teaching in person.
âWe have heard concerns from some faculty and wanted to get a more holistic view of the faculty regarding in-person teaching this semester,â wrote Valerie Horsley, President of the FAS Senate, in an email to News regarding the investigation.
According to his COVID-19 dashboardYale College has achieved a 98 percent vaccination rate among college students, but the risk of persistent infections remains. Responding to concerns, University President Scott Strobel emailed faculty members on August 25, allowing certain exemptions from in-person teaching and clarifying Yale policies.
The memo allows teachers to teach remotely for the first week if it is âimpossibleâ for them to teach in person and describes the procedures for accommodation requests. The memo also allows instructors to remove their masks as long as they maintain a distance of 12 feet from their students.
“It is clear that we are about to start another unusual year and that there is some degree of uncertainty caused by the fluid nature of the pandemic,” Strobel wrote in an email to the News. “[The] the policy clarifications have made it clear that professors who are either at unusually high risk of COVID, or those with short-term needs to teach at a distance, have ways to make such requests. “
Kathryn Lofton, dean of humanities in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, told The News that the policy note was “the result of the ongoing work of the public health committee.”
Horsely also said the Senate also expects some professors in more precarious employment situations, such as teaching professors, to be less likely to request accommodations through the formal process. The anonymity of the form, Horsley hoped, will allow them to be represented.
Horsley added that the memo was “useful” for professors concerned about the Delta variant and that the Senate will advocate for “flexibility policies for professors who have concerns about in-person teaching (for themselves or for someone else). one of their immediate family) and a way to ask for those concerns that support faculty.
Yale has long planned to host in-person classes this fall. In a March 29 email to the Yale community, President Peter Salovey and Provost Strobel wrote that if public health conditions permitted, professors would teach in person, a plan that was again highlighted more late this summer, despite the emergence of the Delta. variation and resurgence in the number of cases after the initial announcement.
“Private arrangements for distance education with individual instructors are not permitted,” wrote Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd in the last email.
The University currently allows instructors to submit an accommodation request if they are at unusually high risk of serious infection with COVID-19 due to an underlying condition. The Office of Institutional Equity and Accessibility is assessing whether remote working might be possible. If the instructors have a high-risk household member, the separate medical review committee chaired by Yale Health chief medical officer Jennifer McCarthy decides whether to accommodate them.
A non-tenured faculty member who requested anonymity due to job insecurity told the News that his request to move his classroom location to allow for social distancing, currently in a room without window in the basement, had been refused, along with his request for temporary distance education due to an immunocompromised family member. He added that he is now in a position to “act at my own discretion during the first and a half weeks of class” following Strobel’s grade.
Strobel told the News it was too early to give the number of faculty accommodation approvals and did not comment on the number of accommodation requests.
Other professors, such as Professor Joanne Freeman, professor of American history and American studies, have shared their grievances on social media.
“Given the circumstances in one of my classrooms,” Freeman wrote, referring to a Computer program who calculates the risk of catching COVID-19 in places, including classrooms where everyone is masked and fully immunized, “I’m ‘at dangerously high risk.’ And I’m not happy with that.”
Freeman did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Strobel’s note also encouraged instructors to be as accommodating as possible to students who could not attend classes in person.
The memo extended Yale’s crisis care assistance program until December 31. The program allows for an additional 10 days of child or senior care for those who are struggling to care for a dependent due to the pandemic.