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Cal Poly students, faculty express concerns over in-person learning

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Posted at 9:14 AM, Jan 06, 2022

Cal Poly students are returning for winter quarter as the Omicron variant continues to spread.

Cal Poly professors are concerned, some even changing what was supposed to be an in-person class to an exclusively virtual format.

Most California universities on the quarter system have decided to start the first two weeks of the quarter virtually.

Cal Poly is the only California State University on the quarter system and the first CSU school to return for the 2022 winter quarter.

Several CSUs on the semester system are planning to start spring semesters virtually including Cal State LA, Sacramento State and Fresno State.

"There are quite a few of our faculty who are nervous about teaching in person, scared about it," said Cal Poly History Professor, Lewis Call.

Call says the decision whether or not to hold in-person classes is up to the campus president.

"I think there's a fairly widespread feeling that the university really has not done as much as it could to protect the health and safety of our faculty staff and students," said Call.

Call decided to make his class virtual because his wife is immunocompromised and he didn't want to risk exposing her to COVID-19.

If a person has a disability they can file a request under the Americans with Disabilities Act and they can get an accommodation to teach their classes virtually, but if the faculty member is not the one with the disability but lives with someone who is, Call says the rule does not apply.

"So in that case, faculty can request permission from their deans to teach virtually," said Call.

Which is how call switched to a virtual teaching format.

Another policy at Cal Poly allows for up to 25% of an in-person class to be taught virtually.

"So that's the rule that many of our faculty have been using to teach the first week of the quarter virtually," said Call.

When asked to comment on the situation, Cal Poly responded with a statement that read in part:

“Cal Poly continues to keep health and safety guidelines top of mind, and we are working closely with our local public health officials and our own on- and off-campus health consultants to keep a close eye on the Omicron variant and the continually evolving pandemic situation,” said Cal Poly Director of Media Relations, Matt Lazier.

There is no one emotion to describe how students feel about this change in format.

"It's like half and half. A lot of people are more like upset but on the other side people understand because COVID is spreading so rapidly here right now," said Cal Poly student, Teddy Krone.

Students say switching to a virtual format temporarily will help slow the spread.

"I think it makes sense for like a week or two just for the time being until cases can get down and then they can go back to in-person hopefully," said Krone.

"A little bit because people will transmit it less," said Justin Caplan, Cal Poly student.

Cal Poly student Robert Chavez says he thinks the return of students to campus is being handled well.

"Every time you enter a building you have to show a green smile which is just for everybody to know that you have tested negative and you have no symptoms of COVID," said Robert Chavez, Cal Poly student.

Call says he is grateful to his colleagues for everything they are doing to keep Cal Poly safe during this time.

"I'd like everybody to know how proud I am of the Cal Poly faculty because they are really standing up to protect the campus community," said Call.

The California Faculty Association Cal Poly SLO chapter sent out a letter on Wednesday addressing the situation, saying a survey conducted by the CFA SLO chapter shows more than 60% of responding Cal Poly faculty scheduled to teach in-person classes decided to hold their classes virtually during the first week of the winter quarter.

The letter also stated students who wish to maintain access to campus facilities will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test by the end of the first week of the winter quarter, however many of those students will be attending in-person classes before receiving the results of their COVID-19 tests.