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‘I’m petrified’: IU professors voice concerns about fall semester plan



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Sunshine illuminates the Sample Gates on June 28, 2019, on the IU-Bloomington campus. Some professors have voiced their concerns over the university's reopening. Alex Deryn

As universities plan to reopen amid the pandemic, students are not the only ones with worries. IU professors also have reasons for concern, including their students, colleagues and course plans.

Erika Lee, a lecturer at the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, said she, like many others, is concerned about students and faculty contracting COVID-19. 

“I think there isn’t a perfect solution for what we can do to reopen the campus,” she said. “This is the reasonable thing to do. The reality though is that it’s not really safe until there’s a vaccine, and even then it may not really be safe the way that it was. It’s gonna be hard to be back to feeling normal even with the adjusted schedule.”

Student achievement and education are also some of her primary concerns. Lee said she is worried students will take a gap year. She thinks it may be harder for students to be readmitted to IU the following year because there may be a larger class applying.

“I’m worried more about problems like that in the future than I am about the immediate future because I think there is a plan for the immediate future,” she said.

Lee said she also does not want her students to worry about their own health and success.

“I’m petrified about fall,” she said. “I don’t want my students to feel uncomfortable or nervous or anxious about it, but I don’t see how to avoid that. I think everybody’s going to have a really steep learning curve. We’re going to have to figure it out together.”

Jim Kelly, associate professor of journalism and director of journalism, said he is concerned about his colleagues’ health. He said he will likely only teach a small intensive seminar next semester, putting him less at-risk than other faculty.

Other faculty have age-related concerns and health issues that put them more at-risk, he said.

Some professors, such as Rod Haywood, a professional communications senior lecturer in the Kelley School of Business, worry that their course structure will be affected.

Haywood said Kelley curriculum often requires group projects. The plan, while addressing health concerns, affects this student interaction. He said he may change his professional communications curriculum to let students present in the classroom individually.

The administration has let faculty voice concerns, Kelly said. The Media School's director of undergraduate studies surveyed Media School faculty to find out what reservations professors might have, he said.

“I do think the university is doing a good job of listening to faculty’s concerns and addressing them in as timely a manner as possible,” he said.

Lee said the administration has given departments and individuals some control. Faculty are able to choose what format they would like their courses will be in. She said there are seven or eight options available, including face-to-face teaching or completely online teaching.

“It may take an entire semester or even the entire year for folks to feel like they have a sense of how this is going to work,” she said. “I think it can work. I really do, and I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault that it’s been confusing.”

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this story, it was not specified what director of undergraduate studies had surveyed Media School faculty and two professors' titles were not properly given. The IDS regrets these errors.

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