Student management

UMD leadership to create COVID-19 policies with input from instructors and students

The opinions expressed in the opinion columns are those of the author.

The University of Maryland leadership’s decision to drop mask protections in the classroom has raised serious concerns among many instructors. He did so without meaningful consultation with the instructors who come to the classrooms every day and without providing applicable remedies or alternatives.

The policy is out of step with science and is out of step with other respected institutions nationally and in the Washington metro area, including American University, Georgetown University, george washington university and University of Maryland – Baltimore County.

We, the University of Maryland Chapter of the American Association of University Teachers, urge university leaders to reinstate mask protections in the classroom while a more nuanced, democratically determined, and grounded COVID-19 protection plan on data is developed in meaningful consultation with faculty and students. This plan must above all center the values ​​of equity and inclusion of this university.

Calendar of decisions

Despite an Aug. 1 promise to issue mask guidelines for the fall semester “in the weeks leading up to the first day of classes,” the administration waited less than three full working days before classes began to announce a significant change from the past. practice. Instructors and students concerned about their own health or that of household members had almost no time to change classroom layouts, adjust care arrangements, or research alternative teaching formats . Similarly, the university management prohibited normal class change requests at the beginning of the term.

Who makes these decisions

Decisions that affect the physical and mental health of instructors should be made in close consultation with them. Instead, this decision provides another example of this university’s opaque, top-down management style.

If the management of this university had taken the time to sound out the views of the instructors, they would have found this decision extremely unpopular. Some measure of this concern is revealed by the fact that our survey of instructors at this university garnered 382 responses within days, with nearly 84% of respondents favoring certain mask protections in the classroom – 67.8% favoring masks always and 16% favoring at least at the request of teachers or students.

Who matters at our university

Decision to lift mask requirement without communicating with instructors and students goes against this university self-proclaimed principles of diversity, equity and inclusion.

We understand that many healthy adults now feel that shielding is not necessary for themselves, but many in our university community are at increased risk of serious complications from COVID-19 or care for household members who have it. make. This also includes parents of infants.

The available accommodations described in university communications do not take caregiving responsibilities into account. They fulfill the university’s legal obligation but force community members to submit to complicated administrative processes that consider only individuals, not family members.

Fairness demands that all instructors concerned about their own health or that of household members be able to teach safely in person. Similarly, students must be able to learn in person. Neither should be forced into an online format if they have concerns for their own safety or that of their family.

Local rates COVID-19

Based on the community-level metric from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leadership of this university says community levels of COVID-19 are currently low in our region.

It’s debatable.

The CDC metric is based on the rate of cases per 100,000 people, hospital admissions and bed availability – not community transmission. The CDC’s community transmission map currently notes high transmission in Prince George’s County. Even so, the CDC’s transmission rates are likely a substantial underestimate due to a increase in the proportion of tests homemade. The risk of encountering an infectious person in Maryland is about as high today, if not higher, than it was in the fall of 2021.

Additionally, this university has limited testing options and has quietly discontinued its COVID-19 data portal. This leaves members of the university community unable to assess their actual risk of COVID-19 infection on campus.

A fairer, more nuanced approach

The leadership of this university should consult with the campus community before instituting such policies. Period.

It is expected to temporarily reinstate classroom mask protections while it works with instructors and students to develop a more refined classroom mask protection policy. For example, masking may only be required in classes where a student or instructor has concerns. Class size and air filtration in specific classrooms should also guide decisions.

Restoring mask protections to classrooms while this more comprehensive plan is developed would also buy time for most people on campus to get the bivalent COVID-19 reminders. It could also mitigate the surges that we have generally experienced when students return to campus. It would signal an administration that goes beyond the rhetoric of equity and inclusion and recognizes that the well-being of faculty and students requires more than platitudes about self-care.

We need a more compassionate and just plan to protect everything members of that university’s community, especially those who are most vulnerable. We need transparency about the conditions on our campus and the decision-making processes of the administration. Above all, we need a meaningful voice in decisions that affect our health and our very lives.

The university leadership must fulfill its responsibility to protect the health and safety of all members of the university and the surrounding community with new holistic safeguards.

Holly Brewer is the Burke Professor of American Cultural and Intellectual History and President of the University of Maryland Chapter of the American Association of University Professors. She can be contacted at [email protected]

Karin Rosembatt is a professor of history and vice president of the American Association of University Professors Chapter at the University of Maryland. She can be contacted at [email protected]

Louiqa Raschid is Dean Professor of Information Systems at the University’s School of Business and Treasurer of the University of Maryland Chapter of the American Association of University Teachers. She can be contacted at [email protected]

Luka Arsenjuk is an associate professor in the University’s School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures and Secretary of the University of Maryland Chapter of the American Association of University Professors. He can be contacted at [email protected]

Solomon Comissiong is president of the Black Faculty and Staff Association and a member of the executive committee of the University of Maryland chapter of the American Association of University Professors. He can be contacted at [email protected]

Nate Beard is a doctoral candidate in the college of information studies at this university and a member of the executive committee of the University of Maryland chapter of the American Association of University Professors. He can be contacted at [email protected]