Public health and safety have become a major concern as schools around the state reform their course delivery methods. Some schools have opted to move classes fully online, and others are taking leaps of faith by bringing students back to campus for in-person instruction.
As Texas State students continue to question whether they should move back to campus for the upcoming fall semester, President Denise Trauth has yet to ease their concerns. She has allowed faculty to make their own decisions for course delivery and has failed to set a deadline for decisions to be finalized. The clear answer is to move all fall semester courses online, with zero exceptions.
Trauth released a statement June 23 regarding course delivery for summer II courses, stating it would be up to faculty to determine how they will deliver their material—remotely or in-person. Instead of providing comfort, this only worsened the divide and doubt among faculty and students.
Trauth likely was influenced by the idea that professors know their material better than anyone else, so they are in the position to make decisions on whether it can be effectively delivered through a recorded lecture or an in-person class. Unfortunately, her decision did not promote unity; it invited chaos.
For the fall, faculty members also have the authority to decide their course delivery methods, not independent of limits for online courses offered or department chair and college dean decisions. Some professors have opted to deliver classes remotely, and others have chosen physical lectures. Due to this, students’ schedules will undoubtedly be all over the place. Some might face the dilemma of having an online lecture, then having to make it to campus for an in-person class, or vice versa.
To make matters worse, Trauth did not set a hard deadline for faculty decisions, so some students are still uncertain about the fall. With less than two weeks until the first day back, that is unacceptable.
Faculty should have never been placed in the position to make decisions for the president.
Provost Gene Bourgeois announced July 2 that summer II courses would be held remotely with few exceptions granted to classes that could not be reasonably accommodated. This should have been the case for the upcoming fall semester, and it is not too late to make that change.
Due to the untimeliness of the summer II announcement, many students who had already signed leases found themselves in unfortunate situations. If classes are delivered remotely in the fall semester, many students can save themselves from the costs of housing, allowing students to work safely from home.
In March, Texas State made a decision to move all classes to remote delivery when the virus was not as severe. Now, it seems Trauth fails to acknowledge the spike in COVID-19 cases San Marcos is witnessing. Not moving classes online, after moving them online when COVID-19 first made its way to San Marcos, is irresponsible.
Texas State students and faculty need leadership. Trauth has failed to provide that. Texas State students and faculty need their safety taken into account. She has also failed to provide that.
Texas State’s Faculty Senate expressed growing concerns, through a letter addressed to Trauth, about returning to campus. Staff members asked for more autonomy regarding decisions on how to deliver course material. A recent poll also shows overall discontent from faculty regarding the newly implemented safety measures.
If the staff feels uneasy returning to campus and felt compelled to address a letter to Trauth, it is clear that she has not taken their growing worries and discontent seriously.
It is important to note Trauth’s consistency in regards to emails about the Roadmap to Return. However, none of the emails have provided security or ease of mind. Students still have a multitude of questions, many related to those who are immunocompromised or do not feel safe returning to campus without knowing how their needs will be met.
Trauth has tucked the university’s COVID-19 response in a safety blanket that has focused primarily on guidelines that leave students with far too much autonomy. San Marcos is simply not a safe space for the thousands of returning students. All classes should be held remotely in order to promote the safety of all students. Trauth still has time to make this decision.
Right now is a time when communities should be united to ensure the safety and learning of all. Without strong leadership, Texas State will suffer a divisive outcome. Cases will continue to rise in San Marcos, and the Texas State community will find itself negatively impacted.
Trauth needs to address her faculty as a whole and step into her role as a leader. She needs to provide a solution that will accommodate everyone’s needs. After all, she is the president; it is time she acted the part. The safety of her students, staff and faculty is at stake; the wrong outcome could be unnecessarily fatal to many.
– Valeria Torrealba is a public relations junior
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