Wright State Campus | Photo by Soham Parikh | The Wright State Guardian
As the Omicron COVID-19 variant spreads across the U.S. and Wright State University (WSU) students plan for an in-person return to campus, a faculty member is expressing concern for the upcoming spring semester while reflecting on past COVID difficulties.
Bruce LaForse, associate professor of classics in the College of Liberal Arts (COLA), expressed concern over the return to campus in the spring and recounted past difficulties due to COVID.
“I am very concerned about the spread of Omicron on our campus this coming semester. The (WSU) administration has been much too slow and cautious overall in responding to COVID,” LaForse wrote.
He went on to further explain how during the fall semester he requested a larger classroom for a 39 person history class he taught to enable social distancing and reduce the spread of COIVD-19.
He took his request to his Chair, Ava Chamberlain, then to outgoing COLA Dean, Linda Caron, and eventually to the provost. He was rejected each time.
LaForse shared email communication between him and Chamberlain and Dean Caron regarding the larger classroom request.
In an email sent to LaForse from Caron, dated Aug. 20, 2021, Caron cites the lack of larger classrooms and the understaffing of the Registrar’s office as reasons for denying the professor a classroom change.
“As I understand it, there is a two-part issue. One is that there are simply not many large classrooms, especially during popular time blocks. The other issue is that the Registrar’s office is understaffed and doesn’t have the capacity to respond to a lot of requests,” Caron wrote.
Through working with the WSU branch of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), LaForse was able to receive a larger classroom for his course.
Despite these efforts, the classics professor still had to move his fall course online due to his students catching COVID. He reported that he also caught COVID in the fall despite being fully vaccinated and wearing a mask while teaching.
Due to COVID exposure and concerns, faculty often modified how they delivered their courses in the fall semester. This will not be an option for the spring semester.
In a Jan. 5, 2022 communication sent to university faculty by Interim Provost Oliver Evans, it was announced that faculty members could not change a course mode of delivery.
“A faculty member may not unilaterally change the mode of delivery; nor will changes be made that do not fall under the standard accommodation process, including accommodation requests based on an employee’s own health condition, whether COVID-related or not,” according to the communication.
According to the email, the only way a faculty member can change course delivery is if the reason for change falls under the American with Disabilities Act and is filed with the Office of Disability Services.
The Wright State Guardian reached out to WSU Director of Communications Seth Bauguess in regards to the university’s response to these faculty concerns.
He did not have anything to add.