Stay Tuned and Stay Safe

Photo of Religious Studies seminar roomEarly on, someone added me to a Facebook group dedicated to issues in higher ed that involve or are impacted by COVID-19. I’ve only posted there a few times but have routinely monitored the posts of others, sometimes finding useful links but often being somewhat perplexed by the sorts of things that I see.

For example, consider the post asking others in the group about their routines for cleaning classrooms between classes and how long they’re waiting between classes. As someone commented there, that’s a question best directed at a campus’s facilities operation, let alone the Office of Academic Affairs and the Registrar, since the vast majority of members of the group seem to be faculty, each focused on issues revolving directly around the virus’s implications for their teaching and what they can do about it. Custodial services, though it surely affects us, isn’t something in which we have much of a say, if any.

That questions well outside the purview of faculty get posted to such a group strikes me as significant, for it suggests faculty on campuses where information is not being shared, where they’re flying in the dark, and have no local way to get answers to basic questions and concerns. Hence a Facebook post to that group. While the initial move, across the country, to remote teaching, back in mid-March, was indeed a bit of a scramble, that’s far enough behind us now that faculty are likely expecting a more systematic approach to Fall planning — something we’ve seen some universities offer, to be sure, though everyone likely knows that we’ll have to wait to see what happens to transmission and infection rates later in the summer before we’ll have a good grasp of what the Fall will actually look like.

Students too want to know this.

Here in REL the faculty have been regularly teleconferencing for some time, first to help each other devise the initial plan for quickly moving our Spring classes to remote delivery but then, before that semester was over, to start thinking about what the Fall will look like. That plan is still developing and we hope to announce it soon, working with guidelines from the University. But for now we want everyone to know that REL faculty are focused on Fall teaching there now and not scattering, as they usually do, to various parts of the US or the world, to focus instead on their summer research and writing. And we’re working to achieve two primary goals: ensuring that everyone — students, staff, and faculty — remains as healthy as possible throughout the Fall semester while also continuing to offer the sort of engaging, timely, and thought-provoking classes that undergraduate and graduate students alike have long expected of REL.

That’s our priority.

So stay tuned and stay safe this summer.

(And yes indeed, though the Department’s offices have not yet reopened, all of REL was recently scrubbed by our excellent custodial teams!)

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