Paul L. Caron

Monday, May 4, 2020

Don't Trust Your Provost With Your Life This Fall

Diane Klein (La Verne), A Twenty-Year Professor on Trusting Your Provost With Your Life: Don’t.:

CoronavirusThe executive suites and Presidential cabinets of America’s universities appear to include far too many people willing to put your life at risk to keep from shutting down. As a faculty member, will you go along with it, if called back to campus? Before you decide, ask yourself a few simple questions.

1. Is your provost Dr. Zeke Emanuel? ...
2. Does your provost listen to the faculty? ...
3. Does your provost care about faculty well-being? ...

The challenge COVID-19 presents to higher education is vast and potentially cataclysmic. Administrators are right to fear for their institutions’ . Many  further downturns in enrollment, and administrators may think ordering professors back onto campus could stanch that bleeding.

But faculty should beware of heeding that call, when it comes in the absence of testing or a realistic plan for pandemic response.

Don’t let them pass off an attempt to protect administrative salaries and the bottom line as “selfless” concern for students and attempts to guilt you into risking your health. And that goes double when the call comes from university administrators without medical training, but with a track record of putting themselves first and faculty governance and faculty well-being last.

For complete TaxProf Blog coverage of the coronavirus, see here.

Coronavirus, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink


In all of your bluster, here's one study you forgot to cite: The one by John P. A. Ionanndis that shows that most studies are wrong.

Posted by: Rob T. | May 6, 2020 8:12:52 AM

I want to return my 30 day free trial of socialism. Thank you.

Posted by: Anon | May 5, 2020 8:26:31 AM

@Prof Banzhaf,

The difference between law and other professions is that lawyers create persuasive arguments, and they ultimately win because they are persuasive, not necessarily because they are right. That is what you have done here. In lawyerly fashion, you have created an argument that law students will not be deterred by online education as opposed to real-life instruction. However, this will not be decided over who has the better of the argument. It will be decided by actual student preferences, and the consequence of being wrong could blow an institutions budget to pieces. In such circumstances, advocating for a position, as opposed to investigating the truth, is just self-defeating.

There may be very valid reasons for not re-opening campuses in the Fall, but I think Deans are absolutely correct to prepare for a financial catastrophe if that is the case.

Posted by: JM | May 5, 2020 6:49:40 AM

Thank you, thank you, thank you. You've given me the courage to do what I know I need to do.

Posted by: Roberta Mann | May 4, 2020 2:00:45 PM


Mark Twain once said that "Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it."

Since administrators at most colleges and universities are in the process of deciding whether to require professors to teach in a classroom this fall, NOW is the time to say “NO” as loudly and effectively as possible, and to get your colleagues to do the same, by sending CERTIFIED MAIL RETURN RECEIPT letters to the university, with email copies to the bureaucrats.

All faculty have rights, and can file formal complaints, under:
* federal Family and Medical Leave Act
* and/or its state counterpart
* the U.S. Family First Coronavirus Response Act,
(perhaps with a note or other help from a sympathetic MD)
* Occupational Safety and Health Act

Faculty with diabetes, high blood pressure, and other diseases are also entitled to special protection [“reasonable accommodation”] and can file formal complaints under:
* Americans With Disabilities Act
* and state laws which prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities

Formal complaints to your university administrators can also cite AAUP policies, appropriate sections of the faculty code, and any relevant legal decisions in your state.

Faculty must understand that some of the suggestions for supposedly making the classroom safe, especially for faculty who are especially vulnerable, and based on the 6-feet-of-separation guideline are dangerously - and perhaps fatally - naive. Here’s why:

Despite conventional wisdom and medical advice that maintaining a separation of 6 feet is sufficient to prevent transmission of the coronavirus (e.g., from an infected student in a classroom to a professor up front), reports from a restaurant in China show that an infected diner was able - in a real life situation - to transmit the virus, and cause the deadly COVID-19, in another diner some 4.5 meters [14.8 feet] away.

Moreover, MIT scientists have shown that germs in a sneeze can travel some 200 feet - much further than the distance which can possibly be maintained by students and professors in most classroom situations.

Moreover, the failure of a student to effectively suppress or cover a sudden cough or sneeze is clearly foreseeable, thereby creating a clearly foreseeable risk of death or permanent disability to vulnerable faculty if they are forced to teach in a classroom this fall.

Another study suggests that a single passenger with COVID-19 on an airplane can infect more than a dozen other passengers several rows in front as well as behind him, despite the state-of-the-art HVAC systems on modern airplanes which are certainly far superior to the ventilation systems in most classrooms.

So, to paraphrase, speak up now or forever hold your piece - and your breathe - if you are eventually forced to risk death and/or permanent disability teaching in a classroom this fall.

Posted by: LawProf John Banzhaf | May 4, 2020 11:51:26 AM