By Dustin Covell ||Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry
As we as a campus community prepare for the fall term, I find myself reflecting on my favorite part of teaching science at the college level. I get to help young-adults practice and hone their ability to make decisions based on the best data they have available to them, while recognizing the assumptions underlying that data. It is from that mindset that I write this opinion.
I will begin by admitting my own (conscious) biases: (1) My partner is a healthcare professional who has been at work throughout the pandemic and who has had several family members fall ill with COVID-19 (2) I am a visiting faculty member at F&M.
In the spring the complexities faced by the students, faculty and staff of F&M when thrown emergently into the lockdown were eye opening. I saw my students struggling with issues of food insecurity, technological capability, extreme stress, complicated family dynamics, health issues, and more. Being on campus in the fall would provide a student with access to reliable meals, necessary technology, mental health resources, a more normal social environment, and all of the other incredible supporting resources of the college.
That does not mean the situation would necessarily be normal, however. As the college plans its re-opening, my fear is that students and faculty are being polled and plans are being made based on what we would all like rather than what is reasonable. For example, students were asked to complete a survey about the fall term by July 6th when the announcement of the college’s plan to re-open was made on July 1st. Faculty are being asked to designate their courses as online only by the 9th, when our first guidance on what a classroom might look like in the fall was received on the 7th. Further, faculty and students still have no guidance as to what the expectations for an online only course would be. Behind the scenes, I know the Re-Opening Operations Team (ROOT) is working furiously to actualize the idea of a campus re-opening. However, without significant details I wanted to share a discussion I have been having with students based on three possible progressions of the pandemic this fall, focusing on safety, equity, and quality of the educational experience under each.