We’ve been getting some inquiries from friends around the country who have seen news reports on so-called COVID-19 parties hosted by some students in Tuscaloosa (as well as elsewhere in the country, according to reports). The local Fire Department’s Chief reported this to the city council the other day but now we see that it has made the national news — such as this report from yesterday morning:
While we’re not sure what schools these students attend or even whether they are university students — let alone UA students — we wanted to take this opportunity to repeat how seriously the members of REL, like the rest of the University, are taking the pandemic.
The REL faculty and staff had already begun conversations among themselves on how best to approach the Fall 2020 semester while our adaptations to the Spring were still developing and being implemented and we’ve worked hard to ensure that our returning and incoming students have been kept well-informed all along concerning our plans via this blog and our various social media accounts — for instance, see our latest update.
While we applaud the city council’s new and unanimously-adopted mandate for face coverings in public — a policy REL has had in place since May for anyone going into the Department to check mail, make photocopies, get books to bring home, or to video-conference with students enrolled in their summer classes — we are not letting our guard down at all. Signage for the Department is on order (such as the image at top) and all undergraduate and graduate classes for Fall are being adapted by faculty during the summer break. Our largest lower-level classes are moving to remote instruction (to free-up classroom space for mid-sized courses that can take better advantage of the space) while the vast majority of all other BA and MA courses are now listed as HY (hybrid), which allows the faculty flexibility in using the in-person classroom when they deem the conditions safe for meeting in a socially distanced manner, or, when they decide it is not advisable, shifting quickly and smoothly to a remote format in which students stay healthy but also stay connected to each other and their professor. What’s more, we are all agreed that if a remote venue is required, we’re committed to ensuring accessibility to all course materials for all students and routine live and substantial weekly interactions with the faculty member.
So, to those elsewhere in the country who — much like a good friend of mine who texted me early this morning — might be asking “What’s the deal with Covid parties in Tuscaloosa?”, we want you to know that this is as far from the University’s plan and our Department’s approach as you can get; we’re hopeful that the city will respond and that everyone will soon realize that we’re in this together and that our individual actions, as healthy as we each may assume ourselves to me, have far wider implications for both ourselves and for all of those who are around us, whether we know them or not.