BREAKING: Fall course schedule updated with a mixture of online, in-person and hybrid delivery

By Kendall Polidori and Lauren Leazenby

Shane Tolentino

Updated Tuesday, June 16 at 9:00 a.m. with additional interviews. 

After weeks of deliberation, the academic space planning team and campus reopening task force have updated the fall course schedule to reflect which classes will be delivered remotely online, in-person or in a hybrid mix.

In a Monday, June 15 email to faculty and staff, Senior Vice President and Provost Marcella David said the process included conversations with departmental leadership, the provost’s office, school deans and associate deans. She said decisions were made with consideration of curriculum and prioritizing classes for “campus delivery in the fall.”

In the email, David said she asked deans and department chairs to rethink the fall schedule by allowing classes and experiences that best serve students to be held on campus, and using other teaching methods like web delivery, remote delivery and a hybrid format.

She said the decisions made also gave thought to all programs and students’ level of education in order to offer balanced opportunities for students to access campus.

David said safety protocols and new classroom limitations due to social distancing played a large role in planning the fall course schedule.

She said although the work to prepare for the fall semester is not complete and will be ongoing, students are now able to access My Columbia to see which classes they signed up for will be in-person, delivered remotely online or in a hybrid format. Some classes which were listed as in-person at the date of registration are now listed as “web” or “hybrid.”

LeAnna Toles, a senior television executive producing and entrepreneurship major, said they checked their fall course schedule earlier today and noticed three of the five classes they signed up for were listed as “web.”

They said all of the classes they are taking are major requirements and said it is “not helpful” for them to be online.

“Me being a senior and wanting to graduate on time, it forced me to have to move my classes around even more and possibly graduate later, because I don’t see a point in having most of my classes online and just paying for a dorm and not going anywhere,” Toles said.

Toles is looking to switch around their schedule to either have all in-person courses or all online courses, so they can determine if it is worth paying for on-campus housing or staying at home in Michigan.

Mariya Scott, an incoming transfer student, said most of her classes have been listed as “hybrid” and she is upset because the college is “not open with it at all” and wished they told students what they were getting into.

“I just wish Columbia would be more transparent with us during this time where we are all trying to make the best decision for [ourselves],” Scott said.

The school has been providing collegewide updates regarding its plans for the Fall semester, with the latest announcement sent May 26. As reported by the Chronicle May 26, President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim said the plan for reopening campus will be updated after the online forums with faculty and staff, which focus on social distancing, classroom capacity and personal protective equipment. Student forums are planned for later this summer.

Lambrini Lukidis, associate vice president of Strategic Communications and External Relations, was not immediately available to provide further information as of press time.

Toles said it was “quite frustrating” to figure out the change in delivery of her courses on her own, rather than getting an announcement from the college. She checked her schedule after hearing from friends who said scheduling updates had been made.

David said discussions of proper teaching methods for the fall began during the May Faculty Development Days, and a “record number” of faculty members signed up for pedagogy training sessions taking place this summer, led by Academic Technology and the Office of the Provost.

“Working together as a community, we can come together responsibly and creatively to deliver an innovative and enriching fall curriculum that not only brings our students back to campus, but lives up to our high expectations of the Columbia experience,” David said.

In the email, David said requests to alter teaching assignments to transition from in-person to remote learning due to health concerns will be “equitably” dealt with using a college-wide accommodation process. The Human Resources Department will lead this effort to ensure “consistency and compliance” with college policies and federal Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.

Diana Vallera, president of CFAC, the part-time faculty union, and part-time faculty member in the Photography Department, said the email and release of the schedule was a surprise to the union, as they were assured it would have a “genuine voice in the process.” She said while she appreciated the announcement’s congenial tone, faculty members and students are still not ensured a safe learning environment and quality education until there is a solid agreement in writing. 

“It is vital that all stakeholders are at the table in decision [making] during this time,” she said. 

Vallera said the college has an obligation to bargain with the union over safety and changes in working conditions, which she said the union reminded the college of after the announcement was sent in a demand to bargain letter. She said the union’s main concern is the safety of students, faculty and staff. 

“They have rolled out this schedule without consideration of these precautions.  We are bargaining tomorrow and plan to address these concerns collectively through an MOU,” she said.

Vallera said the union was supposed to meet with the administration before completing the fall schedule, which did not happen. She said the union informed the college of the information they gathered from investigations including  a survey to members inquiring about course specific needs and safety concerns; and they gathered data concerning quality of education, delivery of instruction and safety by meeting with members within each department. 

“We know that the instructional recommendations that the data suggests are not incorporated in the schedule released today by the Provost,” she said. 

Vallera said beyond safety, the union wants to ensure faculty continue to “enjoy the flexibility and academic freedom to teach as each member finds best facilitates learning.” With that, there is concern the expediency may result in a desire to force courses into facilities, time slots or online modalities that do not work efficiently, she said. 

Colbey Reid, chair of the Fashion Studies Department, said the determination of remotely online, in-person or hybrid instruction was done by weighing curricular needs against safety concerns in an effort to create an “experientially rich but socially distanced fall program.” 

Reid said at this time the department is neither expecting nor planning for program closures of any kind.

In addressing concerns mentioned during faculty and staff online forums, which are ongoing, and discussing plans for reopening campus, David said the college’s COVID-19 resource page and campus reopening plans are continuously being updated with new information.

She said the college plans to continue remote work opportunities for on-campus jobs and classes to “lower the density of our campus” and is working to understand technology or related training needs for the Fall semester.

“I, too, am working to prepare to deliver a Big Chicago class this fall, and what I want for myself is exactly what you should expect: the administration’s commitment to support every member of our academic team as we work through these challenges together,” David said.