OU Faculty, Staff Plan To Protest Start Of In-Person Classes

Monday, August 10th 2020, 6:19 am

Norman -

Some University of Oklahoma faculty members say they plan to protest the start of in-person classes, Monday.

This all comes just one day before students are set to head back to campus. Some faculty and staff are even posting on social media using the hashtag #cancelmovein.

Professor Julie Ann Ward wrote on Twitter that she sent a letter to the university's interim provost.

The letter, which was also included in the tweet, said she's currently on sabbatical but calls the conditions that her "colleagues" have to work in dangerous.

Another tweet being shared on Twitter includes the group's plan to meet at Evans Hall Lawn at 12 p.m. 

That post said the group wants 100 percent virtual classrooms, at least for the fall. It also lists other demands, including no more layoffs and time and a half for essential staff.

OU spokeswoman Kesha Keith released the following statement:

This is an anxiety-ridden time for all, including our University community. Since the beginning of the pandemic, OU has made safety its top priority. The University was among the first in the region to go online after spring break; mandated masks before any city in Oklahoma; and is a national leader in on-campus safe-return preparations, investing millions of dollars in such measures. All actions and decisions taken are based upon science and with the primary guidance of our OU Chief COVID Officer, Dr. Dale Bratzler. 
Going immediately and fully online has very real implications. Importantly, the power of the OU degree is greatest when delivered in-person. We exist for our students and many would not be able to complete their degrees without in-person classes. Further, going fully online would have a major impact on OU staff, particularly those with direct in-person, student-facing responsibilities. All OU full-time employees were retained after spring break, but this would no longer be financially sustainable if OU were to extend fully online through the fall semester. While President Harroz has indicated that those in executive roles and the highest-paid positions would be among the first to take pay cuts, this would not be enough to avoid necessary furloughs and layoffs for those whose positions are not necessary in an online-only environment.
Importantly, over the past several weeks, OU reached out to all faculty and staff and asked if they felt they needed to work away from campus this semester. For faculty, 97% of such requests were granted and the remaining 3% are being worked on. For staff, because of the extensive use of telecommuting, there have been only seven requests that weren’t granted, as such work simply required them to be in-person. Finally, University leaders are also actively working to produce solutions and resources for working parents who find themselves challenged with working full-time and bearing the responsibility of child care and/or virtual learning for their school-age children. 
Common sense dictates that there are no guarantees, and there might come a time when the virus spreads to the point that the University has no other choice but to go fully online. When that time comes, OU will respond appropriately. Until then, the University will keep campus open as long as it is safe do so.