Faculty Member Analyzes LUC’s Reopening Plans

Finding that they were fielding many questions about Loyola’s plans for face to face instruction in the fall, a senior faculty member developed this analysis of how the administration’s plans seem likely to work in practice, and the pressures that the stated goals of holding 80% of predominantly first-year classes and 60% of other classes will create for department chairs and deans.  (text, originally an email, has been slightly edited for clarity).


Thank you for following up with Faculty Council on this. I agree that the policy represents a potential change only for “those people who are not physically at high risk (or live with someone high risk) but rather wish to request remote teaching because they simply do not feel safe.” However:

  1. One statement reads: “All requests for online teaching will be considered, but faculty who are not in a high risk group, or do not live with someone in a high risk group, should be prepared to teach on campus this fall if that is what is required by the University.” In other words, those faculty will not automatically be required to teach on campus, but they will be asked to do so if the University sees the need.
  2. The school’s memo contextualizes the new request process by stating that the University must be responsive to student preferences, and that, therefore: “It is our goal to have roughly 4/5 of our seats in courses commonly taken by first year students on campus, and 3/5 of our seats in upper level courses on campus.” For higher-level classes, the target is 3/5.
  3. So although the decision on whether non-risk faculty can teach online is nominally being left to “the individual unit heads,” the memo is not really saying that deans and chairs can be as generous as they please. At some point a unit may be told “Only 68% of your freshman courses are being taught in the classroom, and we need you to bring that up to 80%.” The dean or chair will have some discretion in deciding how to achieve that goal–i.e., in deciding which reluctant faculty to force into the classroom–and perhaps some negotiation will be allowed (“Will you cut us a break and set the bar at 75%?”). However, I think it’s clear that what the memo as a whole is saying is that some faculty who wish to teach online may not be allowed to do so because their unit is not meeting the provost’s targets.

 

Also consider this: modes of delivery for every course at Loyola have already been determined through communication between the faculty and their chairs or deans. That information has already been posted on LOCUS, giving it the appearance of finality. But the same key paragraph in the provost’s memo refers to faculty “tentatively assigned to teach online this fall.” So the assignments in LOCUS are now deemed “tentative,” and a process has been established by which some of those assignments will be confirmed as untouchable (because the faculty member qualifies as at risk) while others will be flagged as changeable. In the same memo, the need to “provide our students with the educational experience they desire” is being adduced as the reason why certain targets for on-campus instruction have been set. The connection between these two points–the targets, the tentativeness–is being made delicately, but I don’t find it unclear. The University is claiming the right–which they will exercise through the unit heads–to overrule faculty preferences. That right will come into play in cases where a unit is not providing students enough seats in the classroom.

I hope this clarifies my interpretation of the memo. I would like to learn from Faculty Council that I am wrong, but I don’t think I am.

 

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