Editorial Board

TU failed its faculty in responding to inclement weather.

This past week, university administration faced a choice in determining how to respond to the winter weather that covered the city of Tulsa. In an email sent to all students at 10:58 a.m. on Jan. 30, a university announcement opened in declaring the university remained open before acknowledging that “some students and faculty may find it impossible to get to campus.” To account for this, the email asked faculty who could not make it to find “collegial coverage” or to offer “alternative work assignments,” the latter demanded in any case for students who could not make classes. Administration encouraged faculty to avoid online classes outright.

The height of the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the shortcomings of online classes, but it also gave faculty the opportunity to see what they could still accomplish in a virtual setting. To ask them, who have experienced firsthand the difficulties of teaching online, to avoid online classes entirely borders on absurdity and was the wrong decision for administration to make.

Furthermore, for many faculty, the alternatives serve as an even worse replacement for in-person courses than online lectures. Should an instructor have a colleague whom they trust with their class and to whom they feel they would not deliver an undue burden, they can make the call of their own accord in requesting collegial coverage. Similarly, if an alternative work assignment can reasonably replace an in-person lecture, that choice too should fall entirely into the hands of the instructor. But the same logic should apply to online courses. Only the instructor of a course can know the best means of working around inclement weather, and administration should not make any requests to their own preferred methods.

The problem thus becomes one of faculty autonomy and of university administration’s insistence on telling faculty how to do their jobs. True Commitment’s restructuring plans thankfully did not come into fruition, but the notions behind it remain. In the end, the lesson stays the same: administration needs to trust faculty. Faculty can decide for themselves how best to respond to circumstances as they arise. Administration may reserve the right to close campus or to keep it open, but if they choose to remain open on days such as those had last week, they should understand and respect the right of instructors to respond to those situations however they see fit. They should not ask their faculty to seek collegial coverage or offer alternative assignments, and they certainly should not request an avoidance of virtual lectures in favor of these replacements. This decision should rest in the hands of the faculty who teach the courses.

Understanding that the university hopes not to close campus when at all avoidable, The Collegian finds that last week’s initial response to icy conditions still failed instructors in telling them how they should do their job with disregard for what they found appropriate for solutions. Whether hazardous conditions strike again this year or the next, we hope to see the university defer judgment to faculty in similar situations in the future.

Post Author: tucollegian