Chronicle of Higher Education, Colleges Ask Professors to Return to the Classroom. Their Answer? That’s ‘Reckless.’:
When the University of Florida, in Gainesville, announced in July that fall-semester classes would be largely online, the daily new-case rate for Covid-19 was hovering between 60,000 and 70,000 nationwide. This week, daily new cases reached more than twice that number. Health experts warn that the country faces a prolonged surge.
But at Florida and other colleges, leaders have signaled to their professors that, come spring, they will be expected to ramp up their in-person instruction.
An on-campus learning experience is critical to their students’ success, these institutions say. That success, colleges know, is important for keeping enrollments up. And in some cases, the move appears to come down to politics and money. In his message to campus, Florida’s president, W. Kent Fuchs, said that offering in-person courses was the “best shared opportunity” to protect the university’s budget and employee jobs.
On the behalf of students and “of those whose jobs will be saved,” Fuchs offered his “deep and heartfelt appreciation.”
But instructors at Florida and other institutions are not feeling that appreciation. They point out that the latest spike in Covid-19 cases has dangerously strained hospitals , and that many students are not sticklers for social-distancing. They say the benefits of in-person teaching are not worth putting employees, their families, and others at risk.
Faculty members everywhere are already in the midst of one of the most challenging semesters of their careers, and many aren’t eager to embrace face-to-face instruction with a pandemic still raging, even if individual campuses have kept their infection rates low.
For one thing, switching instruction modes again would take considerable work. Burnout, always a problem, has reached a new zenith. In a Chronicle survey last month, underwritten by Fidelity Investments, of 1,122 faculty members at two- and four-year colleges, more than 75 percent said their workload had increased since the start of 2020.
And 68 percent said they would have been either somewhat or very concerned if they’d been required to return to the classroom this semester.