OU community members plan to protest university’s reopening plan

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NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – As the new school year approaches, students from across the country will be heading back to college campuses for the first time since March.

When the coronavirus pandemic spread to Oklahoma in March, the University of Oklahoma decided to close its campus and moved to online classes for the remainder of the semester.

When the semester ended, many people were wondering what the future would look like when it came to the fall.

In April, OU Interim President Joseph Harroz, Jr. announced that in-person instruction would return in the fall.

“After careful deliberation, our intention is to return to in-person educational operations on all three campuses by this fall, offering traditional instruction and residential life. We are doing everything we can to make that realistic and safe. We are acutely aware of the certain challenges COVID-19 will present as we pursue this goal and are planning to address the issues proactively and creatively,” Harroz said in the letter. “We are prepared to adapt instructional and housing models as appropriate to protect our community and still offer the life-changing in-person OU experience. Flexibility will be a guiding principle as we navigate the coming months, and we will ensure that our students, faculty, and staff are presented with appropriate options to return to our campuses, keeping their safety top of mind.”

Two months later, OU officials announced that the university would be adopting a mask policy, requiring all students, faculty, staff, and visitors to wear facial coverings on campus.

“In classrooms and common spaces of the university, we will fully expect students to wear masks anytime they are in those facilities,” OU’s Chief COVID Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler said.

As students prepare to head back to class on Aug. 24, the university has made a few modifications in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Before returning to campus, all employees and students will be required to complete a screening form. Also, officials with OU announced that students who will be moving into OU housing on the Norman campus will be required to be tested for COVID-19 prior to arriving on campus.

Courses with more than 40 students will be held online and courses with a smaller class size will be able to use the larger classrooms to stay under capacity.

To learn more about the changes, visit OU’s Safe and Resilient website.

Although some changes have been made, many students and faculty members are still concerned about the dangers of COVID-19.

Recently, a petition was created to urge university officials to adjust the “Safe and Resilient” plan due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma.

The petition asks for the following:

  • No OU instructor, including graduate teaching assistants, will be required to teach in person and all OU instructors will be afforded decision-making power over curriculum and method of instruction.
  • All staff members who are able to meet their responsibilities remotely will be permitted and encouraged to do so, and will be provided the equipment and supplies required for their work.
  • No student will be required to attend class in person, and all students of the university will be afforded the choice to attend classes entirely online.
  • No teacher, staff, or student will be required to disclose their personal medical conditions or those of their family members in order to be permitted to teach, work, or attend classes entirely online. Also, no university employee will be required to use paid sick leave or FMLA leave in order to quarantine in the event of COVID-19 exposure.

So far, more than 1,800 people have signed the petition, including 431 OU staff or faculty members.

Now, members of the OU community say they are protesting the university’s reopening plan during the Board of Regents meeting.

Protesters are holding a ‘Die-In and Drive Up Protest’ on Tuesday, beginning at 4:30 p.m. on the Headington Hall lawn.

They are demanding the following:

  • No medical disclosure required
  • Online option available for all instructors
  • Time and a half for hourly staff
  • Remote work option for staff
  • No layoffs.

KFOR has reached out to the university and received the following statement:

The University has worked diligently the past several months to support all faculty, staff, and students ahead of our return to in-person operations. Recently, the Office of the Provost announced that 97% of the requests submitted by faculty for flexible teaching arrangements were approved, all without requiring the disclosure of detailed medical information. The University has also enacted staff flexibility guidelines, encouraging the continuation of teleworking arrangements for staff who can complete their work remotely throughout the fall 2020 semester. This week, we’re announcing instructional continuity resources and recommendations to accommodate any potential interruptions in classroom attendance and in-person learning. As the course of the pandemic plays out, any possible furloughs or other necessary financial decisions would be addressed appropriately at that time. In addition to these measures, OU continues to improve ongoing safety plans, that include, but are not limited to: COVID-19 testing for on-campus housing students, a required masking policy, mandatory online health screenings, enhanced cleaning, microbe-fighting devices, facilities upgrades, classroom and instructional modifications and curbside testing.

University of Oklahoma statement.

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