A faculty-wide memo released by the University of New Mexico provost’s office on Feb. 26 said that while the University can’t predict the future status of the public health crisis in the U.S., fall semester classes will likely be held in person.
“The fall 2021 face-to-face experience might still involve some ongoing precautions such as mask wearing, directional signage, symptom checking and continued disinfection in classrooms and other University spaces such as research laboratories, offices and libraries,” the office of provost James Holloway wrote.
While instructors with documented health conditions won’t be required to teach in person, the memo states that the University will still try to prioritize in-person learning for the benefit of UNM students.
“Our students are invested in a return to an in-person college experience, and we have learned that many students are more successful with in-person learning,” the memo reads.
It also states that University representatives should be “transparent with students about what to expect in the fall schedule so that students know when they need to be on campus and can make time and financial commitments (including housing) accordingly.”
Although the University prefers that the fall semester is conducted in person, there is a section outlining the continuation of hybrid and fully online courses in the memo.
In order to teach hybrid courses, faculty and teaching assistants “must complete a Learning Central course (2-3 hours) on remote teaching prior to the beginning of the fall 2021 semester.”
In addition, the University will require that instructors of fully remote, synchronous courses meet one of the three following criteria:
- The instructor has a qualifying medical condition, per the UNM Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator, preventing them from returning to the face-to-face classroom
- The instructor has a contractual employment agreement already in place that provides for fully remote synchronous teaching
- Students enrolled at another campus or institution are joining the UNM main Albuquerque campus on a regular basis as enrolled students in a specific joint campus or joint institution program
The UNM community on Twitter responded to the announcement with mixed opinions on the potential campus reopening in the fall.
“Assuming trends continue, and things continue to look better, I feel perfectly safe going back to physical classes in the fall,” Tyler Braunhardt, a UNM junior, said. “I’ll be honest, even today I would feel comfortable going to in-person classes, assuming recent trends continue.”
Leah Vig, a sophomore at UNM, echoed Braunhardt, saying that if the state continues to ease restrictions, the University should be able to reopen as well.
“Yes!! As long as masks are mandatory,” Vig said. “I just think that if malls, bars and restaurants are going to be open, schools should be too.”
While many expressed enthusiasm at the prospect of returning to a more traditional college experience, some felt trepidation about the potential for graduate student worker exploitation when the University reopens.
“I miss my classmates and my students,” Melissa Bendt, a teaching assistant at UNM, said. “But I feel like grad students bore the brunt of an abrupt transition online and will also be thrown under the bus in the fall ... getting both riskiest jobs and least support and expected to compensate for the chaos when cases spike again.”
Spencer Butler is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @SpencerButler48