Students, faculty split on comfortability with fall reopening, surveys reveal

Media Credit: File Photo by Gabrielle Rhoads | Staff Photographer

Provost Brian Blake said officials are considering sending out another survey but will decide whether or not to send it depending on the decision from District officials and the restrictions required for the fall semester.

Surveys sent to undergraduate students and faculty indicate that while most students plan to attend classes in person this fall, more than half of faculty members indicated some level of discomfort in returning to campus.

Almost 73 percent of undergraduates surveyed said they would at least “probably” prefer for classes to not be held remotely for the entire semester, but about 87 percent of faculty said if given the opportunity, they would teach some or all of their classes remotely. Provost Brian Blake said in an interview that the surveys are being used to “test the temperature” of students and their desire to return to campus this fall.

He said officials are considering sending out another survey but will decide whether or not to send it depending on the decision from District officials and the restrictions required for the fall semester. He said he has been “keeping an eye” on the Overheard at GW Facebook page as well to see how student opinion on the fall semester changes and has noticed a “changing of the tide” in student sentiments over health concerns since students completed the survey.

“I think we’re continuing to develop a consistent, complete, comprehensive fall plan hopefully very shortly,” Blake said. “With the fall coming, we’ve got to come to a definitive plan this week.”

Blake said he was surprised at the response rate for the student survey, which was almost 8,000 undergraduate students, or about 76 percent of the population.

He said officials are having conversations about “alterations” to the plan and hope to create a “comprehensive enough message” that does not leave students with more questions.

Blake said last month that faculty are being provided the option to opt out of teaching classes in person this fall. He said Tuesday that officials have received about 400 requests for online accommodations, which represents between 30 and 40 percent of all faculty members.

“I haven’t exerted pressure on faculty to feel like they needed to be in person if they were uncomfortable,” he said. “In fact, we’ve been overly accommodating to that.”

Blake said officials are giving “as much flexibility as possible” for faculty members who have submitted requests to opt out of in-person instruction this fall and are accommodating to “most all” requests.

“We’re emphasizing an abundance of care and caution in allowing faculty to opt out,” he said.

Blake said teaching assistants will also receive “similar treatment” as faculty in opting out of fulfilling their teaching responsibilities in person this fall but he has not received any information on how many teaching assistants have submitted requests to do so.

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