Faculty advocate for full return to campus

Ana Dominguez, Anahi Lomeli, & Alondra Roman, Staff Writers

Returning to campus can be a controversial topic for faculty, staff, and students. There are those who advocate for a full return to campus along with those hesitant to return. Factors such as: maintaining social distancing, safety concerns, participation, experience, flexibility, and grades are all weighing into this decision. Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at CSUB Dr. Vernon B. Harper Jr., stated that the, “decision of modality for spring 2022 classes will be on each Faculty to decide what is best for students.

We will return for the Spring semester with all the health prevention measures to avoid any health risks.” Check prevention policies here .

Doctor Jackie Kegley, professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies, is among those hoping for a safe return to campus. Kegley has been an educator at CSU Bakersfield since 1973 and is currently teaching both online and on-campus. “I’m ready to go back. I like the person-to-person interaction with my students if it works out. If it’s a large class sometimes it’s a little harder to do that be-cause we don’t have rooms in which we can safely distance [ourselves],” says Kegley in an interview via Zoom. Although you can do many things on Zoom, “some students don’t participate on Zoom…which makes it harder for other students,” says Kegley. She wants to return to campus if the circumstances allow for a safe distance among students and faculty.

Another faculty member advocating for the full return of faculty is Doctor Antje Lauer. Lauer has many titles such as professor of Biology, Vice Chair of Academic Support and Student Services, and the representative for Biology on the Academic Senate. She has been with the CSUB community since 2007. When asked where Lauer stands on the issue of faculty returning to campus, she stressed that she wanted everyone who is vaccinated to return to campus. She also expressed her disapproval of the optional religious exemption and believed it too easy of a way for the community to avoid vaccination.

However, with this being said, she does empathize with our elderly faculty and immunocompromised students and staff members who prefer to stay online due to their delicate circumstances. Regarding those who have filed exemptions due to religious views, fear of a new vaccination, and medical reasons, Lauer understands and further empathizes with those who have chosen to not get vaccinated. “People should learn how their immune system works so they are not afraid and make their own independent decision,” she said.

As for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention announcing the vaccination “offers better protection” even for those who have already contract-ed and built natural immunity to the virus, Lauer said this is a false claim and that it does not align with the scientific community discoveries in regards to the study of immunity and antibodies. Lauer expressed her worry about the courses that will remain online. When asked what could be the reason for the split between online and face-to-face she simply stated: “convenience.” She explains how Canvas has made it much easier to make and grade tests. The important issues she says must be considered are: the decrease in learning outcome, the reducing of standards, and the lack of foundational relationship between students and teachers. Her greatest worry is that online learning, “might not pay off enough in the future.”

Another important issue that has come up in her face-to-face classrooms is the setback of students lacking lab skills. Since the prerequisite labs that led up to her particular classes were all held online, the knowledge students “should have known” did not transfer over to real face-to-face lab time. Lauer does not believe those faculty who prefer online teaching due to convenience purposes will be convinced to return. She did leave off on a hopeful note saying, “those who love faculty life might return if they feel they belong [on campus].”

Faculty member Matthew Woodman, a professor at CSUB for 20 years, also expressed his opinion on returning to campus. Woodman is a part of the English department and is currently holding four face-to-face courses and one on-line. He expressed his want for every class to be face-to-face but stresses that it must be done safely. “Things are complicated. There is no simple answer to a complicated issue,” he said. Woodman believes every-one should get vaccinated (unless it is for a genuine health concern) as a way to look out for other members of society so we can return back to society.

Regarding a potential rift among faculty between face-to-face and online coursework, he explained that the best learning is in the classroom which is why teachers are pushing for a full return. He does mention that there is a demand for online teachers since many students do need that flexibility.

However, he is aware that a major reason faculty will not return to campus is because they are teaching out of town. Woodman’s main reasons for returning have a lot to do with the quality of teaching/learning. He lists reasons like: the best learning takes place at school; whereas, there are too many distractions at home, the learning style is more effective, the professors are more engaged, students are more inclined to ask question in person, attendance is low online, and the classroom allows for students to give their full undivided attention.

In the interview Wood-man also admits there is a notable negative difference in student grades and engagement when being taught online. “There are consistently much better successes in person. Too many students are falling through the cracks [online]. Zoom lets people off the hook too much. There is an overall lack of accountability,” Woodman said.

A suggestion that was brought up to help faculty return to campus is the idea of having better air purification. He feels that if it is a health issue that is stopping faculty from returning, the investment in an air purifier may ease that worry of certain staff. Unfortunately, he does not believe there is a reason to convince other staff members to return if they are online solely for convenience.

The decrease in grades and engagement is not the only issue that concerned Woodman. He worries about the social aspect for students. He explains that, “Students don’t talk to each other unless forced to. Conversations that are inspiring are gone now. Students don’t even realize they are missing all this. A huge part of education is what happens outside the campus.” The conversation ended on a hopeful note with the wish that we have more events and more people around as a way to encourage people to come back. “Joy can be contagious,” he shares.