July 5, 2020

From Gerald R. Lucas

If We Had Only Listened to the Scientists covid-19: day 117 | US: GA | info

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Some Georgia Tech professors are beginning to push back against this rush-to-open madness. Good for them. They emphasize four points:

  • Empower Tech President Ángel Cabrera to “act independently to safeguard the health and safety needs of the Georgia Tech community, informed by scientific evidence.”
  • Make online courses “the default mode of instruction for Fall 2020 in order to reduce disease transmission risk and to reduce disruption of educational delivery in the event of worsening epidemic conditions. We emphasize that no faculty, staff, or student should be coerced into risking their health and the health of their families by working and/or learning on campus when there is a remote/online equivalent.”
  • Make on-campus experiences “available for the limited number of students who need access to campus residences and on-campus laboratories or other specialized facilities.”
  • “Make face masks required everywhere on campus, provide large-scale COVID-19 testing, and ensure timely contact tracing of new infections.”

Points 2 and 4 are most germane to MGA, though 1 could also be relevant if applied to our president.

It’s so frustrating to see the months that we put into social distancing only to be ruined by the impatience of “leaders” like Kemp. The New York Times also has a similar article about “reluctant professors.” Interestingly, some faculty—probably those who are not on tenure lines—want to work face-to-face:

A Cornell University survey of its faculty found that about one-third were “not interested in teaching classes in person,” one-third were “open to doing it if conditions were deemed to be safe,” and about one-third were “willing and anxious to teach in person,” said Michael Kotlikoff, Cornell’s provost.

I noticed a similar sentiment in the Professors subreddit. I don’t mind teaching, but my issue comes with being compelled to be in the classroom. Isn’t our government supposed to protect its citizens, not put them at risk? Later in the article:

University officials [at Penn State] say they are taking all the right precautions, and that the bottom line is that face-to-face classes are what students and their families — and even most faculty members — want.

Yeah, I want that, too, but right now it’s just not safe. This is just nuts, and the closer we get to the fall semester (about a month now), the more inevitable the disaster. I like how this letter by Penn State faculty put it:

The university will affirm the autonomy of instructors in deciding whether to teach classes, attend meetings, and hold office hours remotely, in-person, or in some hybrid mode. Staff should also have the option of working remotely. Instructors will be able to alter the mode of course delivery at any time if they deem it necessary for their own safety or the safety of their students; no one will be obligated to disclose personal health information as a justification for such decisions, and they will not face negative repercussions from the university or supervisors. We say this as faculty who firmly believe in the importance of the university as a physical site of face-to-face dialogue and debate, and we look forward to the moment when such measures are no longer necessary.

Not totally unrelated: On my run this morning, I thought of another essay I’d like to write about the ideologies of domination: capitalism, religion, and patriarchy. I think that most of our current ills can be attributed to these insidious systems of control. I need to write this sometime...