On Wednesday, Feb. 17, Emily Morgan, a student at The University of Tampa published a public petition in support of the reinstatement of William Clark, an adjunct professor within the Department of Communication at UT. The petition was published on change.org, an online platform specifically designed for petitions.
Morgan’s petition stated that “Professor Clark was recently terminated from his teaching position at The University of Tampa for giving his students the choice of taking classes online or in-person due to COVID-19.”
The university has informed faculty members that “all faculty must be on campus to physically teach their classes for the hours they are scheduled to meet,” according to an email sent to faculty within the communication department. “…Faculty are NOT permitted to self-select to teach remotely without a formally approved accommodation by the university,” read the email.
However, Morgan’s petition stated that Clark gave his students the option to take their classes in-person or online this Spring if they didn’t feel comfortable attending class due to the pandemic.
“Terminating the contract of a faculty member is never something done lightly. It is done with a great deal of discussion among many people and as a last resort,” said Jeffrey Neely, chair of the Department of Communication. “Ultimately, the most important factor in making such a decision is what is in the best interests of the students.”
Neely also stated that he could not offer direct comments since it is “a personell matter protected by law.”
“The pandemic has clearly created challenges for everyone, but I think The University of Tampa has been a model of how colleges and universities can effectively accomplish their mission of higher education during these unprecedented times,” said Neely.
As of TWednesday, March 3, 841 people have signed the petition, out of the 1,000 signature goal set on change.org.
“We, as his students, believe this is unfair because of the fact that other professors at the school have done the same thing and so have many universities around the country,” the petition stated. “The University of Tampa is disregarding their students and faculty’s health and safety, and this wrongful termination is proof of that.”