U-M faculty, staff don’t want face-to-face instruction

University of Michigan faculty and staff members don’t want to risk having students sitting in classrooms – even socially distanced. They don’t think it’s safe to have students living together, especially crammed into student apartments across Ann Arbor. They worry about Friday night parties and students bringing in COVID-19
from wherever across the country they’ve been living for the past several months.
University of Michigan football players want to slam into each other. They want to drip sweat while untangling from the pile that forms on an off-tackle dash by a running back. They want to
celebrate with each other after a 75-yard touchdown catch by a fleet-footed wide receiver.
In short, with less than a week to go before students start moving back into U-M’s dorms, nobody is happy.
Welcome to college, COVID-style.
As the clock ticked toward 1 p.m. Tuesday, a small group of faculty members and staff members drew Xs with chalk on the sidewalk and square in front of U-M’s Fleming Administration Building. As a couple of dozen protesters filtered in over the course of the next several minutes, they stood on the Xs, keeping acceptable social distance from each other.
Chanting slogans like, “We want to teach, just not in person,” the group was there to protest what U-M is calling its public health informed semester. The university says about 70% of its classes will be offered with some sort of remote option when classes start Aug. 31, spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said.
“You have probably heard that ‘large’ classes will be offered remotely, while small classes can continue to meet in person,” Provost Susan Collins said in a letter to faculty earlier this summer. “This summary statement encompasses a range of possibilities – and each academic unit will determine what is most appropriate for its programs. For instance, what constitutes a large course will be defined differently across units, based on space and other constraints. Large courses may include a lecture taught online as well as small sections offered either in-person or remotely. Mid-sized classes may be offered with ‘alternating attendance,’ so that only some students are in-person on a given day. There are also some courses (performance, studio, lab) that require in-person instruction.”
U-M librarian Celia Ross wasn’t having it Tuesday.
“I think it’s a bad idea to encourage students to come back from all over the country and not expect to see the problems we are seeing all over the country,” Ross said while holding a sign outside Fleming. She was referring to the University of North Carolina, where students were brought back to live on campus and have face-to-face instruction, only to have several large COVID-19 clusters pop up, forcing them back to online-only. “I don’t think we can just educate students to compliance. We can do the best prevention, but that doesn’t necessarily stop the virus.”
A petition signed by more than 700 people asking for classes to be switched echoes those complaints.
“In our opinion, U-M is on a path to creating a predictable and entirely preventable disaster, which will not only impact the university’s students, faculty, and staff, but all of Washtenaw County and the state of Michigan,” it says. “There is no reason to believe that U-M students are any different from other young people across the nation who have been routinely ignoring public health guidelines and driving the spread of the virus. Expecting that guidance from the university will prevent young students from holding large indoor parties with no masks or social distancing is unrealistic.
“Unlike in past pandemics of this magnitude, we are not forced to choose between education and the health of our community. The internet is an unprecedented tool that allows us to teach and learn while preventing the spread of the virus. It is not optimal, but it’s far better than the alternative.”
One area that has been taken out of the normal face-to-face operations is football, where U-M was among the schools in the Big Ten voting to cancel the fall season in hopes of playing in the spring.
U-M President Mark Schlissel said he supported that move.

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