Kent State faculty senate addresses face-to-face teaching concerns

Kent State’s faculty senate hosted a question and answer forum Aug. 18 for faculty members who will be teaching traditional face-to-face classes in the fall, addressing most of their concerns.

The faculty senate is Kent State’s governing body tasked with matters concerning academic and institutional standards. In a virtual meeting held via Microsoft Teams, the Chair and Vice Chair, Pamela Grimm and Tracy Laux, moderated and welcomed the concerns and questions of faculty members teaching face-to-face classes.

“When I was first asked to teach this class-whether I wanted to do it face-to-face or remotely, I said face-to-face is a good idea,” said Sanhita Gupta, an associate professor of biology for the Geauga campus, describing her in-person summer biology class.

Gupta said there were 12 students who were registered for her in-person class, however, four of those students dropped the class after learning it was in person. Another two students expressed to Gupta that they were uncomfortable attending classes in person, which prompted her to change the class instruction to hybrid, some in-person and online, for those students who were uncomfortable. She said seats were marked indicating social distancing between desks, a clear entry and exit was placed in the classroom and sanitizers, wipes and disinfectant were provided.

“If a student is diagnosed as COVID positive, then that information will go to the health department who then calls them [the student] and issues an order of isolation,” said Chris Woolverton, a professor of epidemiology, addressing how positive tests will be handled. “If a student is a contact, then contacts will quarantine for 14 days.” 

With only nine days before campus reopens, many faculty members have a number of questions about campuses reopening for instruction, including testing and whether or not faculty members will be required to take a COVID test before their first day of fall classes.

Pam Grimm said that if faculty members feel sick, they should visit the Deweese Health Center, where they will be screened upon entering. Woolverton assured some faculty members that they shouldn’t feel the need to get tested unless they believe they have been exposed or are asymptomatic but added that testing is currently available on campus if they would like to be tested. Woolverton said Quest Diagnostics, a third-party testing company, has been approved to use the saliva-based testing materials, but they are waiting to receive those kits.

“Until then we are working with the nasopharyngeal swabs,” Woolverton said.

Woolverton said the nasopharyngeal testing is available at the University Health Center and that results could come as early as 24 hours but could also take days in some situations. He further added that Kent State has acquired 1,000 face shields from a startup company in Erie, Pa., and they have put in another 2,000 requests for those masks. 

“A shipment should be in by the end of the week,” Woolverton said.

Other professors raised concerns over issuing masks to students in classes. Along with those concerns, some faculty members wondered if classes will be stocked with a sufficient amount of materials needed each day.

“There are 1,200 classrooms on campus,” said Doug Pearson, the vice president of facilities planning and operations. “We are working on filling them with adequate supplies.”

Tracy Laux, the faculty senate vice chair, said faculty members will be provided disposable masks and that faculty members can hand those out to students. 

“When one removes their mask, they are to hand sanitize,” said Woolverton, regarding etiquette of disposable masks.

Faculty members were also encouraged to reach out to Jim Raber, the executive director of information services educational technology and service management, if they encounter issues with Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, the platform all professors will be using to conduct their remote classes. Raber said they are working to resolve those issues as quickly as possible.

For students, staff or faculty members who do not want to attend in-person classes but would rather attend classes remotely, they will have to fill out the pandemic adjustment request accommodation form. Questions about that form can be directed to Amanda Feaster at [email protected]

“Anyone who wants to participate remotely should register,” Feaster said.

Contact Tramaine Burton at [email protected].