KU relaxes requirements for instructors wishing to teach remotely in fall semester

photo by: Associated Press

Students cross Jayhawk Boulevard in front of Strong Hall on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

The University of Kansas has decided to give its instructors more flexibility to decide whether they’re comfortable with teaching in-person courses in the fall, just days after hundreds of faculty members signed a letter protesting KU’s policies related to COVID-19 and the reopening process.

Now, all instructors will have the choice of whether to teach in-person or remotely in the fall, KU Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer announced Tuesday, and no instructor will be asked to teach on campus if doing so would compromise their health or the health of their family.

Previously, faculty had been under the impression they were required to have a documented exemption under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act on file with KU to be excused from in-person instruction.

“In our focus on the logistics, we have implemented processes that seemed reasonable in the moment but have not served you well,” Bichelmeyer said in a written message to instructors Tuesday morning. “We have failed to demonstrate to our students, staff, and faculty that we value a culture of transparency and caring. In so doing, I understand trust has been broken.”

KU on Monday released a more detailed plan for fall safety measures, including four options of personal protective equipment available for faculty who teach in person. Still, Bichelmeyer said Tuesday, everyone should be able to decide for themselves what best fits their individual needs.

“While students want and expect to come to KU in the fall and have in-person experiences with faculty and instructors, you are the one who knows best what is right for you and your family,” she said.

For faculty members who had already filed an ADA accommodation request for the fall, Bichelmeyer said they can now use a more simplified process that all instructors will soon be asked to complete — a survey from Bichelmeyer’s office to indicate teaching preferences for the fall and any safety measures that instructors will need if teaching in-person or hybrid classes.

Bichelmeyer also acknowledged cries from faculty for more transparency from KU leadership about the decision-making process as it moves along. As the Journal-World reported Sunday, hundreds of faculty penned a letter to Bichelmeyer and KU Chancellor Douglas Girod objecting to the university’s stances on communication, transparency, finances and more during the pandemic. As of Tuesday, more than 430 people had signed the letter.

Bichelmeyer said she would release more information in the coming days about addressing transparency at KU, but she immediately highlighted as progress the formation of a 60-day Pandemic Project Management Team composed of representatives from various campus constituencies, as well as a weekly survey sent to faculty, staff and students to hear ideas and concerns heading into the fall semester.

“I believe that, even if today it seems as though we are further apart than we should be, we will come together and we will prevail,” she said.

KU is currently scheduled to resume some form of in-person instruction on Aug. 24.

Contact Conner Mitchell

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