By Kelsey Braun ’22, Editor in Chief
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed what classes look like for students at St. John Fisher College.
In the fall, due to rising COVID-19 cases, the school was forced to close and all classes transiting to online or asynchronous learning. Upon arrival in the spring, a majority of students found their new semester of classes contained, mostly in person, but still could have hybrid, remote or asynchronous options. With student schedules blending a combination of these courses, the question arises: what was the process of determining which classes would be taught face-to-face and which classes would be held online?
“We wanted to keep our faculty as safe as possible.” said Kevin Railey, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.
The CDC website lists all of the prepare and planning strategies for the reopening of campuses, including an important point to note, “considerations for students, faculty, and staff with disabilities and people who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID.”
At the start of each semester since the pandemic has begun, faculty with health accommodations were instructed to talk with the Human Resources department and identify the reasons they fall into the CDC guidelines.
“Those people that had these kinds of conditions or that fell into these categories, we accommodated them.” said Railey.
Dr. Greg Cunningham, a professor in the biology department, is teaching four online classes this semester from home.
Reflecting on last semester, Cunningham said he and other faculty members felt the college was not prepared for the semester. “Though I feel like they asked us our input, I don’t think they necessarily listened to us.” Eventually, due to rising cases all professors had to transition to online. “I certainly think that mistakes were made in the fall, but the lessons have been learned and now the testing is much more robust,” Cunningham said.
“I feel a lot better about what we doing this current semester.”
In addition to following CDC guidelines to accommodate faculty, Fisher officials need to consider the physical capacity of spaces on campus that could be used as classrooms. Every room needs to be socially distant, meaning there is a restrain on classes offered face-to-face. “We did compensate for that because we added some rooms that we do not usually use as classrooms.” said Railey.
Cleary Auditorium, Wilson Formal and the Murphy Chapel are a few examples of large spaces that are being used to hold classes. “If a particular class needed something in a room that was a certain size we just had to work with those constraints.” Railey said.
Faculty that teach remote classes are not required to come on campus, however there is still an expectation for faculty that do not receive accommodations to still teach face-to-face. “We’re proud of the face-to-face education we provide, the students consistently have said this is one of the things they really like about Fisher, faculty have consistently said their interaction with students is really one of the biggest rewarding parts of their jobs,” Railey said.
“We prioritize face-to-face education from the beginning, so unless faculty received an accommodation we expected people to teach face-to-face.”
As for this semester, Fisher continues to base classroom rules on the New York State COVID regulations. Railey said classrooms are equipped with sanitizing supplies and are cleaned regularly. “We provided the safest possible setting that we could for that, we expected everyone to follow the rules or regulations.”