University of Alabama Might Resume in-Person Learning in January

The University of Alabama (UA) in Tuscaloosa is considering requiring students and other faculty members to resume full-time in-person work on campus in early January.

According to university representatives, all students are expected to return to campus unless they have a medical reason. Nonetheless, it isn’t an official decision yet, Erudera College News reports.

On Tuesday, during a virtual appearance before the UA Faculty Senate, a plan was introduced by university officials, which outlined that everyone working for the school should end the online work and return to campuses as of January 7.

The proposal came three weeks after UA’s Department of Human Resources released a policy which requires all university faculty to resume in-person work at least two days a week.

Following the proposal, the UA spokeswoman Monica Watts, through an email, said there isn’t still any official date when the full-time return for the next semester will take place.

“We are monitoring local health data and consulting with medical professionals and the UA System Health and Safety Task Force, and will communicate any changes in the current expectations for faculty and staff at the appropriate time,” she told al.com.

Among others, the proposal has also triggered criticism from some faculty and staff organizations as it is being introduced during a time when the infection cases across Alabama are increasing.

In recent days, UA reported that a total of 2,833 students had tested COVID-19 positive during the fall semester.

UA’s chief administrative officer, Chad Tindol, said on Tuesday that the UA administrators expect to implement the plan on returning to campuses on January 7, unless there is a local increase in COVID-19 cases.

Whereas, the Dean of the University’s College of Community Health Sciences, Richard Friend, supports the current proposal to start face-to-face work and courses in early January, claiming that the campuses are safe if health protocols are followed.

Moreover, according to UA’s associate provost for academic affairs, Luoheng Han, individual colleges and programs will be allowed to ask students to participate at in-person courses, adding that several colleges at UA have already contacted their students.

Contacted students have been informed that the alternative of online learning will be permitted except for students who provide a rational reason.

Faculty members have already expressed concerns on the idea of resuming in-person work at the beginning of next year.

“Our concern is that if we start bringing more people onto the campus, it would just potentially increase our rates and make the campus a little less safe from a health standpoint,” president of UA’s Professional Staff Assembly Robert Baxter said.

On Thursday, an online meeting to discuss the plan and resolution supporting the extended remote work arrangements was held by the Professional Staff Assembly. The latter has officially voted on resolution adoption.

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