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Remote teaching preferred for fall semester, faculty survey indicates

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Mimi Chapman, professor of social work and associate dean for doctoral education in the School of Social Work, presents survey results on teaching methods in UNC's fall reopening at the Faculty Executive Meeting on Tuesday, June 16, 2020.

The Faculty Executive Committee, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and other University leaders met Monday to discuss faculty concerns about teaching in the fall and the ethics of UNC’s re-entry plan.

Mimi Chapman, professor of social work and associate dean of doctoral education in the School of Social Work, presented results from a survey sent to voting members of the faculty about returning to teach in the fall. The survey, which was open from June 3 to June 10, recorded 1,263 responses with a 34 percent response rate.

The five categories of comparison included: whole sample, total fall undergraduate instructors, fall undergraduate tenured or tenured track instructors, fixed term fall undergraduate instructors and faculty age 60 or older teaching in the fall.

Chapman said among respondents, remote teaching was the preferred method of instruction, with 46 percent of responses, and a hybrid method was the next most popular, with 29 percent of responses.

Chapman said a key takeaway from survey results was that faculty would like to hear more from health experts and University leaders on the Roadmap for Fall 2020.

“The science is evolving; that’s a given,” Chapman said. “And faculty need much more detailed information.”

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bob Blouin, who has been announced as the executive director of the Roadmap for Fall 2020, said he will begin releasing communication every Thursday to faculty, staff and students about updates to the Roadmap.

The survey also showed that respondents were more accepting of hybrid teaching models than traditional classroom teaching, and most respondents felt comfortable negotiating with their respective chairperson or dean about teaching decisions.

There were over 400 comments from survey respondents that will be organized and reported on in the future, Chapman said.

Committee members were also each given time to present their comments and concerns on the Carolina Roadmap. A concern frequently discussed by committee members was whether students would adhere to the Roadmap’s community standards in the fall.

Professor of law Eric Muller referenced a New York Times article written by Laurence Steinberg, a psychology professor at Temple University, about adolescent decision making.

“This is a person who actually studies it and who concludes that their best intentions notwithstanding, it’s a fantasy to think that there will be the kind of compliance with expectations that we all would hope, for ourselves and for them, to keep safe,” Muller said.

Guskiewicz said talking with students has increased his confidence that they will follow community standards in the fall.

“I’ve been led to believe by the ones I’m talking to for sure that they’re in this to prove that they want to be part of helping to build the community standards, adopting the community standards and showing that as the next generation of leaders, that they want to help set a new standard for community care,” Guskiewicz said. “I would put a little more trust in them perhaps than maybe what a New York Times piece suggests.” 

Jim Thomas, associate professor of epidemiology, spoke about pandemic ethics. He emphasized the need for psychologists and sociologists, in addition to infectious disease experts, to understand how the UNC population will respond to re-entry.

“When we rely on community standards and belief and trust that our students can adhere to them, one of the other essential elements in public health ethics is the importance of evidence base,” Thomas said. “And I just don’t know that we have the evidence base to assume that that’s going to be a right assumption, that we can shape our community differently than other communities have been shaped.”

Though the survey did not ask faculty to provide information regarding race or ability, Rumay Alexander, a clinical professor in the School of Nursing, spoke about issues related to underrepresented faculty. She said that faculty had expressed concern about the lack of specific provisions in the Roadmap for individuals of color and individuals with disabilities.

“Those are questions that I think need to be addressed and answered because it’s not a one-size-fits-all,” Alexander said. “And it feels, to many, like a one-size-fits-all approach is being used.”

Guskiewicz said that University leaders are working to change the Roadmap to accommodate for faculty with circumstances that may prevent them from safely teaching on campus. Last week, Terry Rhodes, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, announced that students would most likely have an on-campus component for 3 out of 5 courses.

“We are working toward being able to deliver the majority of our courses in person without people being forced into doing so,” Guskiewicz said during the meeting.

Lloyd Kramer, current chairperson of the faculty, said the Faculty Executive Committee would hold a community conversation this Friday to further discuss the issues raised in Monday’s meeting.

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