Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Do Professors Have An 'Obligation' To Teach In Person In The Fall?

Following up on last week's post on the Wall Street Journal op-ed by John Hasnas (Georgetown), Why I’ll Be Teaching On Campus This Fall:  Steven Lubet (Northwestern), Do Professors Have an "Obligation" to Teach In Person When Classes Begin?:

Like many other universities, including Northwestern, Georgetown has given faculty the choice of teaching either remotely or in-person for the coming Fall semester. I appreciate Hasna’s position; he has evaluated the risk and has chosen to accept it. ... [But y]our entire essay reads as implicit criticism of those who choose to teach remotely. You refer three times to “obligation,” while invoking the sacrifices of young people who are employed as essential workers. You do not want to “hide” from the novel coronavirus. It would be “ungenerous” if you were to teach remotely. It is your “responsibility” to be in the classroom, which is “the least I can do.” How is one to read this other than as a call to duty by the professoriate?

If Hasnas is indeed “obliged” to teach in person, for the reasons he stated, why aren’t others? And if he did not intend to influence public opinion, why write an essay for the Wall Street Journal? His personal reasons are his personal reasons, but publishing them in the language of obligation will certainly create pressure on other faculty to do the same.

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