Many State System profs don’t want in-person teaching this fall

The results of a new survey among faculty at Pennsylvania’s state-owned universities indicate a clear majority of professors do not believe teaching face-to-face this fall will be safe.

APSCUF, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculty, which represents the faculty at the 14 State System of Higher Education universities, conducted the survey. Those universities include Clarion, Slippery Rock, Edinboro and Indiana.

The APSCUF press release says more than 70% of faculty surveyed said they would not feel safe teaching in the classroom.

Ninety percent of the respondents believe students will not take appropriate steps to socially distance while they are in their residences. Sixty percent of faculty surveyed are worried about contracting COVID-19 or exposing their family to it, and 40% of faculty have reported a medical condition that puts them at higher risk of illness.

Out of the 4,800 faculty members APSCUF sent the survey to, close to 3,200 responded, giving the survey a 66% response rate.

Speaking to the State System Board of Governors during a July 16 Zoom meeting, APSCUF President Jamie Martin said the union wants assurances the faculty will be protected .

“We are asking that our faculty be permitted to feel safe, that their concerns about their health and the health of their loved ones be taken seriously,” said Martin.

Locally, Ray Feroz, the president of the Clarion University APSCUF chapter, said the survey results accurately reflect the sentiments among Clarion professors.

“The current mood is demonstrated by the results of the survey,” said Feroz.

Feroz shared Clarion University’s survey results, which confirmed his statement.

Fifty-three percent of respondents in Clarion said they would prefer fully remote and online teaching. Twenty-eight percent preferred a hybrid in-person and online program while 19% wanted a return to the classroom.

Clarion’s response rate was also at 66%.

Pam Gent, the Clarion University provost, said there are measures in place within the university for faculty who don’t feel safe teaching.

“There’s a process in place for faculty who are at risk,” she said. “We are honoring all those requests for faculty to have a flexible work schedule.”

This answers a concern Martin had during the Board of Governors meeting, when she specified her desire for flexible work options for faculty either at-risk of contracting COVID-19 or with at-risk family members.

Feroz said the survey is being taken into account when discussing Clarion University’s current reopening plans.

“The results of the APSCUF faculty survey are being considered by the administration in making this decision, as well as student and staff and other input,” Feroz said. “We have had good contact with the administration on making this decision.”

Gent said Clarion University monitors various sources of information in order to make decisions.

“You can’t make decisions without looking at the data,” she said.

Faculty, Gent said, are very involved in the decision making process.

“Professors have just as much voice as others,” said Gent. “Faculty have had a major role in decision making.”

Whatever the case, Gent said the university is active in its reopening planning, as the current situation can change.

“If the numbers go up, we have to be responsive,” Gent said. “We have to do what we have to do.”