Faculty and students from five of the state’s six public universities have signed a letter urging the Board of Regents to reconsider its commitment to face-to-face teaching this fall. The BOR is meeting this afternoon to discuss the fall semester.
The letter asks that no one be required to attend class in person or be required to disclose medical information in order to teach or attend class online.
By the time it was submitted on Monday, the letter had just over 150 signatures representing every regental institution except Northern State University. It continues to gain more.
Sara Lampert is an Associate Professor of History at the University of South Dakota. She wrote the form letter because she feels professors should have a say in how they teach class under these circumstances.
“I think we really need to remember that colleges are part of larger communities and everything that happens has an effect on those communities," she says. "So if and when there are outbreaks on campus, those are not going to be limited to the institution.”
Another USD professor, Marcella Remund, is one of the signatories. Everyone in her household is high-risk for COVID-19 complications, and she arranged to teach online back in April. She’s seen firsthand how few young people in Vermillion are voluntarily wearing masks to prevent transmitting the virus.
“To encourage students to wear masks but not mandate it, I think, is just an exercise in futility," says Remund. "They’re not gonna do it!”
Remund says the university sends encouraging emails about minimizing the risk, but the process for faculty to request online instruction is unclear.
“How effective are teachers gonna be—and students too! How effective is their learning gonna be if everybody’s scared and waiting for the shoe to drop?”
The Board of Regents is expected to consider further precautions during today’s meeting. The fall semester begins on August 19th.