Classes at Western Carolina University are set to begin next Monday. Some will be in-person. But the Faculty Senate voted Monday to oppose face-to-face instruction during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Senate Faculty resolution that calls for online instruction is just a recommendation that goes to local administrators.
“They'll at least have the faculty's position in writing, and they will do with it what they will,” WCU Faculty Chair Kadie Otto said.
“The core message of the resolution remains it is a dangerous thing to open WCU and other institutions in the UNC system amid the pandemic,” said Dr. Yancey Gulley, associate professor in the College of Education and Allied Professions.
WCU classes are set to begin Aug. 17 with a combination of in-person and online instruction.
Gulley wrote the resolution that expresses concern about in-person courses and the health and well-being of the Catamounts community
“We do not have the policies or the procedures or the tools in place to effectively keep our community safe,” he said.
Fifteen faculty members supported the resolution against face-to-face instruction. Thirteen did not support it.
WCu officials said the resolution does not have an immediate impact on operations.
"Western Carolina University values the voice of its faculty and the role of shared governance,” Western Carolina University Chancellor Kelli R. Brown and Interim Provost Richard Starnes said in a joint statement.
The resolution also calls on state lawmakers to guarantee funding to the UNC system and financial aid to affected students if and when outbreaks force schools to go online only.
“There's going to be a lot of questions around that. How do we go forward? What counts? What is not counted? And finances will be a part of that,” said Troy Lesher-Thomas, father of an incoming freshman.
Questions remain for Gulley, too, like how many cases on campus before there will be a re-structuring of classes.
“People around the state have been asking for that number. And no one has been given that number that I’m aware of. I certainly have not been given that number. It’s a ‘we’ll wait and see,'" he said.
While the university said it is prepared to offer in-person classes, it also is prepared for the contingency should it have to alter plans with the guidance of local and state authorities and the UNC system.
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