Inside Higher Ed, Do Faculty Have The Right To Refuse To Teach In The Fall Due To COVID-19?:
As colleges and universities agonize over whether students will return in the fall, either to campus or online, they’re making a big assumption: that faculty members will show up to teach.
The expectation isn’t ill founded. Faculty jobs, especially the good ones, were hard to come by even before hundreds of institutions announced pandemic-related hiring freezes. No one wants to be out of a job right now. But no one wants to get sick, either.
Teaching online for another semester is so far outside many professors’ original job descriptions that it is nearly as unpalatable, to some, as being shut in a room with students. Even so, many professors say they'd prefer a remote term, or even a delayed academic year, to teaching face-to-face again too soon.
“So far, no one has really talked about protecting the faculty,” said Alan Czyzewski, a professor of accounting at Indiana State University who is over 60 and statistically at a greater risk of falling ill with COVID-19 than many of his students and some of his colleagues. “I’m not saying we shouldn’t be doing everything we can for students, but the faculty are equally important. If we get sick, or three to four of us get sick all at the same time, who’s going to be teaching class?” ...
The right not to work under certain conditions draws upon existing Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines that require reasonable workplace accommodation for reasons of disability or genetic information, Lee says. Given limited testing capabilities and the many epidemiological unknowns of COVID-19, “faculty members would generally fall within this latter category, even without preexisting conditions, until a vaccine is available."
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