Open letter calls for flexibility in University of Lethbridge course delivery

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Open letter calls for flexibility in University of Lethbridge course delivery
Some members are voicing their concerns about the University of Lethbridge return-to-school plan, penning an open letter to the president. As Erik Bay reports, the plan is not sitting well with everyone amidst the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic – Sep 1, 2021

An open letter to University of Lethbridge president Mike Mahon is asking for flexibility when it comes to delivering courses this fall semester.

The campus is expecting roughly 90 per cent of its students back in class. U of L faculty association president Dan O’Donnell, who signed the letter, says professors need the ability to move courses online if COVID-19 cases rise.

Read more: Lethbridge College still in limbo as U of L announces COVID-19 measures for fall semester

“If we’re going to enforce the mask mandates, and especially if we’re going to enforce the ‘do not come to campus if you are sick,’ then it’s inevitable that in a week or two, we’re going to have some percentage of students not there today but back tomorrow, and then the instructor is sick,” O’Donnell said.

The letter asks for faculty to have the option to move courses online if students and/or professors are unable to go to class.

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O’Donnell adds having the option to move online allows students to continue their studies unimpeded.

The university’s graduate association chair Jackson Ham also signed the letter and says the school’s return to campus made sense when it was announced in February, but the situation has changed dramatically since then.

Read more: Lethbridge post-secondary schools prepare to welcome more students to campus this fall

With the fourth wave of COVID-19 continuing to spread, Ham says there is a risk not only for staff and students but also for their families.

“Making sure that we’re taking the appropriate health and safety precautions along the way is critical and having the flexibility to move online when it’s necessary to do so will ensure everyone is staying safe,” Ham said.

The U of L says it is aware of the letter. In a statement to Global News, it said: “Each step in our reopening plan has been guided by a commitment to the health and safety of our entire campus community.”

Read more: Province announces flexible learning options for Albertans looking to add skills

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“The COVID-19 situation is dynamic. As the semester advances, we will continue to monitor the protocols in place with future decisions guided by the best interests of our entire campus community,” the statement read.

But O’Donnell is concerned in-person learning could disrupt students’ education if positive cases force them to miss class.

“Faculty members and graduate students can make those local decisions to say this material could be much better taught online. It’s not perfect. We wish we could be in-person, but we also wish we could be safe,” O’Donnell said.

The university’s fall term begins on Sept. 8.

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