UT’s Faculty Vocalizes Opinions on the Return to Campus

By Re’nesia Mills

It is no secret that many have been concerned about students’ return to campus this Fall, but faculty at The University of Tampa have expressed mixed views following the start of the Fall semester. 

Several faculty members are in agreement with the decision that was made for students to be back on campus this semester.

“I’m excited,” said Julie Umberger, assistant professor of nursing. “I think the university has gone above and beyond to provide as many safety features as they could for both the faculty and staff, as well as students.”

Jennifer Blessing, assistant professor of psychology is holding all of her classes remotely this semester due to health concerns.

“I would prefer to be in-person, but I would also prefer to be healthy and safe,” said Blessing.

While professors are concerned about the health and well being of their students, some feel that the university is doing all that it can to keep the campus community safe. 

Liv Coleman, associate professor of political science and international studies, has been teaching classes outside under the tent located just outside of the Graduate and Health Studies building and says she has felt safe in doing so.

“I really like teaching under the tent,” said Coleman. “I’m hopeful and optimistic we might actually be able to get another tent for next semester.”

Faculty have noticed the efforts that the university has taken to create a safe environment for faculty, staff, and students, but some faculty are thankful specifically for the work of Ronald Vaughn, president of UT.

“The president has bled for this university,” said Juliet Davis, associate professor of communication and program director of advertising and public relations. “He has no personal stock in whether this university fails or not, but he’s dedicated, and that dedication inspires me.”

Faculty members have expressed a great deal of support for the decision to bring students back to campus for the Fall semester, but some have expressed great concern.

According to Kacy Tillman, associate professor of English and writing, there has not been enough time to test the long-term impacts that COVID-19 has on college-age individuals.

“We don’t really understand everything about COVID-19 which means, by definition of this pandemic, we’re going to be somewhat unprepared just because of the nature of the disease,” said Tillman. 

Another concern is that faculty were not allowed to decide whether they would conduct Fall classes remotely or face-to-face.

“The only way faculty were allowed to go remotely is if the faculty or a member of their family put them into the high-risk category for COVID-19,” said William Myers, associate professor of political science and international studies.

There are also additional protocols that some faculty feel should be utilized this semester to further prioritize the health of the entire campus.

“The major thing missing is the testing,” said Myers. “When the university started talking about what their plans were going to be, there wasn’t really a testing plan; they said they were only going to test people that were symptomatic.”

The Spartan Shield Health Safety Plan states that any students who display symptoms of COVID-19 are to contact the Dickey Health and Wellness Center to make an appointment. Students are then supposed to self-quarantine until they can get tested.

The plan does not require everyone on campus to take a COVID-19 test.

“Safe face-to-face requires a ton of testing and that’s incredibly expensive, but other universities are doing it,” said Myers. “If all we’re doing is testing people that have symptoms, then that is not safe face-to-face.”

As of Friday, Sept. 11, there have been a total of 111 positive COVID-19 cases reported at UT since the start of the semester. Eighty-seven of the positive cases were reported between Friday, Sept. 4 and Friday, Sept. 11.

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