• Daniel Star

    Daniel Star is a College of Arts & Sciences associate professor of philosophy; he can be reached at dstar@bu.edu. Profile

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There are 36 comments on POV: False Advertising and the In-Person Experience

  1. Ah, the moral superiority of a philosopher. While muckraking the “false advertising” that a thousand colleges and universities including his own are making, he doesn’t acknowledge that, as a tenured faculty member, he is immune to the “significant financial risks” he skims over. Instead, he can afford to draw false comparisons with Harvard (and its $40 billion life preserver) and still teach fully online to only a small handful of students. While the rest of us roll up our sleeves and go to work, let’s do our upmost to support students and make this hybrid plan work while abiding by all CDC guidance for being safe. If not, then unlike Star, we’ll face 5x the layoffs that we’ve seen thus far, and we’ll be knocking on Pelosi’s door for yet another welfare check that never comes.

    https://www.chronicle.com/article/heres-a-list-of-colleges-plans-for-reopening-in-the-fall/

    https://www.newsweek.com/stimulus-talks-congress-remain-hopelessly-deadlocked-1524975

    1. You don’t think jobs will be lost when all of this blows back in people’s faces? All of the investment (money,man-hours) that was made in making in-person teaching happen, wasted. They could have spent time and energy shifting most courses online. And where is the cost-benefit analysis for the city? If stores have to close again because of an outbreak, how many people will lose their jobs?

    2. As someone who is actually facing significant financial risks should the university layoff additional faculty/staff, I agree with the author.

      Just like you I am rolling up my sleeves and getting to work – I want to provide my students with the best possible experience. However it strikes me as obvious that a hybrid classroom where the instructor’s attention is divided between zoom and in person attendees is just not going to be as coherent as a remotely focused room.

      As to your comment on abiding by the CDC guidance for being safe – this institution has an exemption for abiding by state mandated guidelines on the number of individuals in an indoor space. We can argue over which guidelines one prefers to follow, but 20 students in a less than 1000 sq ft room doesn’t seem like a good call to me. But as I said, I am lined up to do it. I know my duty to my students.

    3. Is that your real name or are hiding your attack behind a character in David Copperfield? And I don’t have tenure and fully agree with Dan Star, as do many students.

    4. Very cute, Betsy Trotwood; the eccentric aunt in Charles Dickens novel David Copperfield.

      Ironically only an eccentric philosophy professor would have the temerity to opine the aforementioned
      “mumbo jumbo,” an unrealistic and rationalistic argument to minimize in-person classes if not eliminate them entirely for remote teaching.

      This Goody Two-shoes so-called ethics professor is
      promoting “critical thinking” in remote teaching, yet he is clearly a goddamn rationalist; not a realist. Realists are critical thinkers; not rationalists Dr. Star is illuminating himself as.

      Dr. Star appears young and healthy in his faculty profile. If he contracts the CCP virus, he will likely be
      asymptomatic; presumptuous, but a fair and realistic assessment. Yes, an underlying comorbidity is a potential threat to exacerbating a CCP virus infection; however, the adminstration will offer an effective amiable remedy.

      I remember when the BU tuition was $7000,00. Today the tuition is exorbitant and the University must generate sufficient revenue to cover the costs of salaries and wages, maintenance,etc.. It is absolutely necessary for the University to return normal operations despite the CCP virus, incidentally, is grossly exaggerated. In 2009, the H1N1 (swine flu) infected 60 million Americans. Did WHO declare a pandemic? Did President Obama shut-down the economy? Of course not.

      The Democrats have weaponized the CCP virus, to tank the economy and demonize President Trump in a desperate effort to defeat him at the November election. Herd/community immunity is the realistic remedy. A hybrid system is effective, particularly for the feckless, hysterical, and paranoid elements who are ascribing to the relentless fearmongering the mainstream media are fomenting.

      1. As someone working on the front lines of bringing this virus into some semblance of control, I experience your response as insulting. I can, with all confidence tell you, Bobby, that there is absolutely no guarantee, and it is completely faulty to assume, that Mr. Star, despite his seeming good health, would “likely be asymptomatic”. What I know is that I interact daily with people of every age who are having severe symptoms as well as people in “high risk groups” who test positive and are asymptomatic. On a case-by-case basis, co-morbidity has no bearing on how this virus will impact an individual.

        Regarding H1N1: there were plenty of school closings and steps taken in communities where outbreaks were largest. It also was not nearly as contagious or deadly as this virus nor did it result, evidently, in as many longer-term post-viral health consequences impacting people today with COVID. Furthermore, there may be no herd immunity as coronaviruses generally do not result in long-lasting antibodies.

        This virus is impacting some communities at higher levels due to the inequities in the social determinants of health that exist in this country. Other than that, this virus does not discriminate. There is no fear mongering going on; you are living in a state of denial. Seriously, take a job in public health or at a hospital working to stop COVID for a week or a month, and then return to this forum and tell us there’s nothing to worry about.

    5. What moral superiority, to consider the safety of students and faculty as more important than the university’s finances. Let’s just “roll up our sleeves” and continue spending loads on marketing to convince students that everything’s fine while we put them in a Petri dish and see what happens. So long as we get those tuition dollars, right?

    6. Thank you, BU Today, for reprinting my article. Thank you, Betsey, for your brave and novel stand. No sense of superiority on display in your comment, I’m glad to see. I won’t spend much time on the sneer at people in my academic field (philosophy), since this is all too common. As an ethics professor, I’m sadly all too accustomed to people who study ethics — a sub-discipline at the heart of philosophy — being sidelined in discussions of moral issues at this university. Yes, I am tenured. Yes, that is a privilege, as I have explicitly said in a post on my blog, With All Due Caution. I strongly wish more BU teachers were incorporated into the tenure system, rather than being paid low wages to do noble work, under insecure job conditions. That being said, you seem to think tenure shields people from all retaliation, small or large, from employers. It does not. I have been receiving a great many supportive email messages from BU teachers (as well as students), and quite often their authors speak of tenured faculty who are afraid to stick their necks out, especially in public, even though they disagree with BU policies (and I definitely don’t mean to say I am the only one who has been or will stick his or her neck out). Betsey’s response actually grants that BU’s concern with its financial standing is a significant determinant of its policy choice, although she doesn’t address my argument concerning the financial risks of reopening. I agree that Harvard is in a different financial position than BU, and have said myself that we need to be careful when making comparisons with Harvard. My only point about Harvard here was that their decision is some evidence that students in general might be sufficiently satisfied with the option of returning to campus but taking many of their classes online. We’ll find out if that’s the case when they take our hybrid classes and see what they make of them, since there is the possibility of the students deciding to move the courses online. I do recognize I am going out a limb in this article by making a predictive claim about what many students will come to prefer that might turn out to be false. I accept I might be wrong about this. We will see. Students have diverse interests and perspectives. That goes with something I was very keen to say in the article – something I don’t hear university administrators saying in the present context – which is that we should always treat students respectfully as people who are able to reason for themselves (where this involves considering moral reasons), rather than simply as customers who are to be milked for money. Regarding the mention of the CDC, I agree with Melisa Osborne’s comment, and would just add that the six foot safety spacing rule no longer applies indoors. Or at least, this is what scientists are now telling us. Since our university president respects scientists (as do I), I believe he is taking the new evidence regarding aerosols very seriously, and I have heard something may now well be done to ensure that teachers will have access in real time to CO2 readings in classrooms that will then enable students and teachers to feel safer, when the ventilation is adequate (or take classes online, when the ventilation is not adequate). I mention this last idea because I wish to indicate that many of the proposals I have discussed and supported on my blog have been constructive.

      On tenure: https://allcaution.com/2020/08/01/are-faculty-in-colleges-other-than-cas-concerned-about-the-universitys-plans/
      On comparisons with Harvard: https://allcaution.com/2020/07/07/international-undergraduate-students-ice-and-university-policies/

  2. Thank you, Professor Star, for an excellent article and much-need perspective.

    As with so many of BU’s communications initiatives, I can’t but interpret the promise of in-person learning as an insult both to the analytic capability and public-spiritedness of BU’s undergraduates. The continuing–and purposeful–ambiguity and strategic miscommunication from the top levels of the administration only reinforce this article’s point.

    I will be staying off-campus, at least initially, and have spent hours trying to find classes amenable to that format. I can only imagine how much time and angst would have been saved–and how much trust in BU would have been generated–had the university made a decision guided by expertise, in concert with faculty and staff, to offer only or at least primarily remote instruction.

  3. Wow…what a narrow view for a professor to hold. No thought whatsoever for the many students who are in a field that requires hands on experiences, and equipment not available in personal homes. Biology labs, science experiments, sound and lighting for theatre, studio arts………good luck being able to do college level work at home for these fields. In addition, people learn in different ways and there are those who require in-person interaction to learn to their potential. Perhaps the University should be evaluating the professors more closely for superiority complexes and for those who “assume” too much. Frankly, from this piece I would “assume” this professor doesn’t want to do what they are paid to do.

    1. I have to say I disagree. I think Professor Star raises many valid points. I thk folks are too quick to rush back to a “normal” experience. It’s not going to be normal. College level learning is and needs to be different for a bit longer. If labs and hands on experiences need to be different for another 14 weeks, it’s not going to make or break our students. We need to teach them to adapt, to persevere, to rise to challenges and change. Aren’t these also reasons for sending our kids to college? If the whole world falls apart it’s not going to matter if they got to go to college this semester or if they hold a college degree. I don’t thk he is acting superior at all; he’s just being real.

    2. Hello, STEM undergrad here working in tissue engineering. I technically live in science labs: doing experiments, heading to the library, etc. I reassure you – four months of online work won’t make or break a STEM or hands-on arts student. I have full belief that bringing back students to campus is extremely unsafe for all involved AND highly inconsiderate to the progress Boston and the state of Massachusetts have made to curb the virus. I’d rather work at home for a few months so I can have a lifetime of in-person working and learning. It astonishes me how selfish people are when they advocate for re-opening by claiming that it’s for the sake of students’ education.

      Also, I’m not coming from a point of privilege: I’m lower middle class, financial aid covers tuition and housing for me and I work full-time to support myself in college. So, I’m saying this because I do understand how diseases spread and how public health works.

      Yes people learn in different ways, I learn by hands-on work myself, but I think we can deal with our current situation by going online so we all don’t die feom a preventable virus.

    3. I think you have a good point here, Lisa, but I don’t think that it’s incompatible with Prof. Star’s criticism. I’d politely suggest revisiting your own assumptions regarding what’s being proposed and where these concerns are coming from.

      For my part, I teach two very different types of classes, typically in alternating semesters: Some are hands-on workshops that rely heavily on students being in the same room, and which I can’t imagine teaching over a webcam (fortunately, I haven’t had to yet); the others are lecture-and-lab-style coding classes where all of the students’ work is done on their own computers, and which I’ve already had positive experiences teaching entirely online.

      I recognize that there are some classes that benefit from or even require in-person instruction to function. The issue is that BU’s blanket policy demands that I put myself and my students at risk by carrying on with in-person instruction *regardless of the content or the needs of the particular class.* This not only shows a startling lack of faith in the pedagogical expertise of instructors, but in the long run, further jeopardizes the opportunity to provide in-person instruction in those situations where it is actually necessary by increasing the risk that the university will have to shut down mid-semester.

      It’s also worth remembering that in many cases, the benefits of in-person learning will be negated by the restrictions that have been placed upon classroom interactions. Will students who prefer in-person interaction still be learning to their potential when they cannot come within 6 feet of their classmates, when they can’t meet in-person with their project teams, and when their professor can’t move around the room or address them face-to-face? “In person” students under LfA will still have to access course materials online, do exercises, quizzes, tests, assignments, and projects online, interact with their classmates, TAs, and professors online… with this in mind, is it really so “narrow” to question what the tangible benefits of being in the classroom are and whether they justify the risks?

  4. I appreciate the extraordinary measures that BU has undertaken to try to make in-person education in this context as safe as possible, and I recognize the financial challenges posed to the university.

    However, in-person classes are nonetheless not without risk, and there are many things beyond the university’s control — both of which have been illustrated by recent incidents at other universities.

    Allowing for faculty choice about teaching remotely or in person (in all but those cases where a course cannot be offered remotely; MIT, for example, decided that any courses that can be offered online will be) would not only have served to de-densify the campus, thereby making everyone safer, but would also have had the pedagogical advantages suggested by Daniel Star.

    I applaud Prof. Star for speaking out, and for representing the opinions of many other faculty members, as well (not all of whom feel comfortable stating their opinions publicly, for various reasons). Greater communication and community involvement in the discussions at the various stages of this process would have been welcome.

    In any case, I am glad that BU Today is finally publishing an opinion piece by a faculty member who is in disagreement with the administration on this issue; I understand that it has taken quite some time for Prof. Star to have a submission on this subject published by BU Today.

  5. I have followed the situation, and Daniel Star and his colleague’s persistence in speaking truth to power, throughout. I’m lucky in so many ways, myself: I have a wonderful department, a great Chair, a terrific group of students, tenure, and the enormous privilege of advanced age to teach “off-campus.” I taught on Zoom for summer session and it worked well, beyond my expectations. I had face to face (no masks) contact with students all over the world, with many ways for them to participate with me, and me, with them. It was even better in some small ways – in a classroom, students don’t wear their names on their shirts (nor could I read them if they did) . In a classroom, their mumbled responses can’t be amplified, nor can my voice for them. In a Covid-19 classroom, masks on both teachers and students muffle: students for whom English is a second language (or third…) can’t read the teacher’s lips – a significant problem.

    I could go on. Of course I wish for “normal” – for casual encounters, for “real” office hours, for term papers printed on real paper and much more to share in person. That’s not happening for a while, but it will happen. What I had wished for, the choice offered to faculty who have not my advantage of age and infirmities, is not available to my colleagues who would like to feel safer. We’re not going to be “normal” for a while and it doesn’t feel like a good idea to pretend it is: wishing, and spraying classrooms, will not make it so.

    I participated in the drive-demonstration last week and was encouraged to see young colleagues, graduate students, lecturers, adjuncts and others less “safe” than myself. I want to protect our students and them all, and thank you, Daniel Star, for giving many of us a bigger voice.

  6. Not only it is not safe to teach in class, or a bad pedagogical move for many courses I know of (rotations, masks, divided attention…), it is also a missed opportunity to innovate towards a more accessible and customisable remote teaching format that I believe will be the future of higher ed.

    I am sure the faculty will do their best to make hybrid work, but I am saddened to know how much better it could have been if this format would not have been forced onto every faculty for every course.

  7. A hybrid form hamstrings professors, preventing them from optimizing for either format, while putting professor, student, and community lives at risk. We are already hearing reports of universities with significant outbreaks. Especially at a place like BU where the campus cannot become a closed “bubble” since most students live off-campus, we are subjecting the entire Boston community to extreme hazard. BU administration, please rethink this disastrous experience while there’s still time to do so, and before you send a bunch of infected students back to their homes, once again dispersing the virus around the country.

  8. Wow. I don’t see evidence that the author or any of the respondents is a scientist or engineer. No one mentioned our testing program: BU is the only university to set up an in-house RT-PCR mass-testing lab, with <24 hour response.

    I am in my seventies, but will feel safer teaching in a BU classroom than visiting a supermarket. Aside from the fact that every student will be wearing a mask _properly_, every single one of them will have had two consecutive negative tests within the past week before entering any classroom. That does not guarantee that none will be infected, but it dramatically reduces the statistical probability.

    Those of us who run research labs have already demonstrated that following sensible guidelines keeps us safe. (And we understand the science of the 'aerosol' issue.) We have increasing numbers of research students working in our labs, with stepwise increases in density, without any problems over almost two months since first reopening, because all follow the guidelines. Not surprisingly, all the grad and undergrad students in my lab are testing negative, now that the BU testing program has ramped up.

    LfA gives students a choice, so if our masks and distances in the classroom turn them off, we'll know soon enough; but at this time many of them want to have some in-person education. Since the obscenely expensive tuition they pay is what pays my salary, and since I love teaching, I'll take the calculated risk. BU has invested in the science and technology to keep us safe, and I believe that the BU campus will be a safety bubble, not a hot spot.

    1. Hello, BME undergrad here. I am inclined to disagree with you on your points. (Disclaimer: this is my personal opinion and my viewpoints as a student, and my views do not represent BU or my employer). I am an RA on campus, and I already started seeing students in the dining halls not wearing masks, or wearing them improperly. I started seeing large gatherings in Allston. Students are planning to sneak into their friends’ dorms already from now, many taking advantage of the ability to access Warren towers for the dining hall then heading up to friends’ rooms. Almost no way to prevent outsiders from visiting south campus dorms. Students will party on the weekends in Allston basements, such parties at frat houses already have begun. Besides, many students will be wearing neck gaiters/bandannas that aren’t enough to curb the spread.

      BU is running on the assumption of perfect compliance, which is wildly inaccurate. I applaud BU and especially Professor Klapperich for designing an amazing testing system, a rigorous track-test-and-contain effort, and wonderful move-in plans and precautions, but I believe we are being way too optimistic. Northeastern and BC students may not be as compliant as BU students, or these colleges may not contain an outbreak well. We are also forgetting that Boston is a city. Even though our plan can hypothetically work at a SLAC in a remote location, we cannot separate BU from the city of Boston and stop movement of people between them, and a possible outbreak caused by bringing students back will take a huge toll on our city and state.

    2. With all due respect to my colleague, I would rather not assume that a philosopher does not understand science or that a scientist has nothing to offer in a discussion of moral philosophy.

      I teach mathematical modeling of the kind our university has used to inform testing frequency. Our current mask guidelines do not justify the administration’s current assumptions regarding the probability of an infectious contact in a classroom employing the 6 foot distancing rule (that it is effectively zero). That assumption cannot be justified as long as neck gaiters or bandanas are considered acceptable face coverings for prolonged indoor activities such as a class of 50 or 80 minutes. The science on that is quite clear. Moreover, given the current guidelines, comparing protocols in a research lab with what may be allowed in a classroom is “apples and oranges.”

      We need to strengthen our guidelines if we are to keep members of our community safe.

    3. I’d suggest that the University’s myopic focus on scientists and engineers – as if they are the only bearers of truth or knowledge – is what has led them to propose a dramatically suboptimal teaching format for everyone else.

      BU has been obsessed with testing as a means of solving the problem of how to return to in-person instruction. They have failed to answer the more important question: whether or not, at present, everyone or even most people should.

      Will a combination of in-person instruction and Zoom calls, carried out under these conditions, really produce the best educational outcomes for students or, in the long term, the best financial outcomes for the institution?

      What about language courses that require clear conveyance of sound and the ability to see the instructor’s lips and tongue?

      What about writing courses that make use of intensive partner or group work, but do not require physical interaction?

      What about courses centered around discussion and debate, where students will struggle to participate equally because those sitting in the class cannot hear or see those on Zoom and vice versa, or interpret reactions through facial expression?

      What does BU think is so magical about an instructor’s physical presence that the benefits of having a person standing in the same room as (some of) their students will outweigh the negatives of divided attention, tripled workload, masks, enforced distance, a completely untried pedagogical model, impossible childcare pressures, and background anxiety over the possibility of lapses in safety protocol?

      These are not the scientists’ or the engineers’ questions. Are they suddenly irrelevant variables because they’re inconvenient? Or must we ignore them simply because they disrupt the quest to prove that it CAN be done without bothering with the question of whether or not it SHOULD be?

      A consultation with the philosophy department might have warned the administration of the dangers of building an elaborate and expensive argument on deeply questionable assumptions like “students will automatically believe their classes are worthwhile as long as it is possible for them to poke their professor with a yardstick”.

      Guess we’ll see how well that assumption holds up in a few weeks.

    4. Oh, I’m sorry, I must have signed my name wrong. I can send a copy of my graduate degree if you need evidence I have a doctorate in biochemistry.

      1. I agree completely and would also add that “sage on the stage” is a problematic pedagogy for STEM too. Freeman et. al in 2014 did a meta-study of active learning in STEM (https://www.pnas.org/content/111/23/8410), where they found it was so much more effective that if it had been a medical study with comparable results, the study would have been halted early because it would be unethical to continue lecturing. Some of us use active pedagogies in “Lecture” sections of STEM classes, and these face many of the same problems you mention.

        Thanks to Dan Star and other humanities faculty for their leadership and thinking.

    5. Irving Bigio, it’s great that you feel safer in the classroom than the supermarket. I am presuming that means that you also have a safe way to get to work. For many students, faculty, and staff, the MBTA is the only way to get to and from work, and forcing people to work in person also means forcing them to risk their safety on the way to work. This risk is higher for those with less privilege. The T is requiring masks, but not enforcing that requirement, and having more people work in person will make the T more crowded and more dangerous. As BME undergrad said, we cannot separate BU from the city of Boston.

      1. I do agree that public transportation can raise the risk. I ride my bike to work (5 miles each way), even in the winter. Certainly, students who live too far from campus to walk or bike should probably take their classes remotely, and most full-time faculty can afford to pay for parking. The more difficult situation is for staff in the lower salary ranks, who live too far and cannot afford to drive a car and pay for parking. They deserve consideration, but it’s a challenge. Many of those people have been working through the pandemic, and would continue to work on campus, even if all classes were remote. (They simply would not have a job if they could not work on campus.) So, they’ve been exposed to the T all along. Sound’s like the MBTA police could change their priorities?

        To BME Undergrad: you say you’re an RA. Do you say anything to students when you see them not (or improperly) wearing masks?

        1. Not everyone has a car. I am a full time faculty member in my late 50s and have lived in the city almost my whole adult life and have never owned one. I have not taken the T since March. I can afford to buy a car and could do that, but it seems kind of stupid to add one more car to both the densely packed neighborhood around BU and the one where I live (not to mention adding one more nervous, inexperienced driver).

          It’s wonderful that you are fit enough to ride a bicycle in all weather, but that’s not a realistic option for many people.

          Some of the students I’ve heard from recently are planning to take the T because they will need to have jobs on campus or because they don’t have a good set-up for remote learning at home: either inadequate WiFi or sharing space with too many other people.

    6. Professor Bigio, I appreciate your points about BU’s extraordinary effort on testing, but with respect, Star’s blog has been very attentive to the science around ventilation and has included BU faculty who are experts in this area and oppose BU’s plan. I hope it works, but the research on public health, pedagogy and on behavior sciences raises ethical concerns.

    7. I appreciate all of the supportive comments I have been reading. Thank you to everyone. Irving Bigio says “I don’t see evidence that the author or any of the respondents is a scientist or engineer.” Well, as I said above, in my reply to the first comment, “I’m sadly all too accustomed to people who study ethics — a sub-discipline at the heart of philosophy — being sidelined in discussions of moral issues at this university.” Of course, it isn’t just philosophers who have been sidelined. It isn’t even that all the scientists are being listened to and the rest of us told we have nothing to contribute. A select group of scientists and engineers happen to have the President’s ear.

      If Prof. Bigio had done the readings before class, he would have seen that two of the four guest posts on my blog are by scientists (and a third guest post relies very carefully on science to pull apart the CDC age risk guideline). If Prof. Bigio was more open to considering what people who are not scientists have to say, he might also have known that the philosophy department at BU has a long history of supporting science, and includes four professors who work on philosophy of science. One of those professors, Russell Powell, is the coauthor of a different opinion piece linked to above in my piece, coauthor of our open letter to the university, and coauthor of the petition that received more than 1500 signatures. Scientists clearly have much to offer when it comes to dealing with the present crisis. (and many of them are saying the university shouldn’t reopen, or that it should reopen more carefully, with classes online). So do academics who are not scientists. You can’t get good ethical arguments directly from science, without arguments that aren’t scientific per se, but you also can’t ignore science when doing ethics, and nobody is saying you should.

  9. I have been following Daniel Star’s blog and I think he has been doing a fantastic job in voicing faculty concerns and questions in a coherent way. This article is no exception, I particularly like his comment that “students need to be holding institutions to account … by insisting that they are not merely customers and hence should not be treated as such. They should be seen as people who are capable of thoughtful reasoning, who might be encouraged to accept that this must be a year when the educational experience they receive won’t offer everything they’d hoped”.

    Irving mentioned the testing effort, which is indeed impressive, and we all hope that it will be sufficient to prevent outbreaks. But the experiment we are about to start is at a different scale and nature compared to research lab openings, so it’s hard to use successful research lab operation so far as evidence in my opinion.

    The fundamental issue in pandemic management, in my opinion, has been the lack of a sufficient “community process” at BU. E.g., faculty involvement in decision making was negligible, limited to a survey and some town hall meetings with very limited impact as far as I could tell. I hope the pandemic offers an opportunity to rethink how universities should be governed differently than other businesses and I agree with Daniel that we should really think well beyond the customer-salesman relationship.

    By the way, comments along the lines of “while the rest of us roll up our sleeves and go to work…” are simply clueless. Anyone who has taught through the last Spring semester knows that online teaching is actually as much as (or more work than) in-person teaching. No one here is arguing for working less. Overwhelming majority of professors are professors because they love their job, they love teaching, and they love being in the classroom. It’s just that we have to accept that this semester (and possibly some other future semesters) will be very different than the usual. And there are different opinions on how to achieve the safest and most feasible mode of operation in a university during a pandemic (i.e., BU’s currently selected mode of operation is not the only option).

  10. Dr. Star deserves to be commended for helping to lead the charge in speaking truth to power. Thank you, BU Today, for finally publishing a piece from a faculty member that is critical of the reopening plans.

    In addition to faculty and students, we also need to make sure that we are including STAFF in these discussions. BU’s unilateral decisions without community input affect them greatly, too.

    This summer, BU proudly announced the opening of the Center for Antiracist Research. There is nothing anti-racist about BU’s capitalistic approach to education, which their LfA model so starkly reveals. And as Dr. Kendi tells us, capitalism and racism are conjoined twins. You can’t have one without the other.

    We’re all very impressed by BU’s efforts to develop their robust testing capacity. It will be a tremendous shame if that amazing apparatus isn’t used to assist our neighbors outside of BU. It’s also a real shame that the same amount of energy, innovation, and resources that went into testing weren’t applied to the pedagogy of LfA.

  11. Thank you, BU today, for printing an article that does not uncritical throw its full support behind an attempt by the administration to score tuition checks no matter the cost to human life. And thank you, Daniel Star, for providing fair and well argued feedback to the school’s policies from the the perspective of those of us fearing the repercussions of this plan.

    To the people who feel as if being in the academy marks a person as a privileged elite, I should remind you all that a lot of us, particularly PhD students, live on a poverty wage. I have personally had to choose between getting a degree and paying for medical expenses since being here. It’s not always comfortable to pursue this kind of work and the work itself can be extremely demanding. I am lucky to have the opportunity, but many commentators seem to forget that a great many of us worked out way to this point from the very bottom. I know what it like to wash dishes and wait tables and go home exhausted every night. I feel for all the workers who have to endure that right now. But the way we help those workers is not to return to normal life and increase their risk of infection. We help them by taking advantage of our ability to work remotely and doing just that. To be able to do my research and teaching from is a luxury that could actually have a positive impact on the community at this time.

  12. As a BU natural scientist with expertise in atmospheric physics and micro-meteorology, I have deep concerns about serious unresolved problems in re-opening, mostly related to ventilation. I don’t see credible ventilation plans for bathrooms, hallways, elevators, and stairwells, particularly in between classes. The same concern goes for dorms. There is no credible off-campus oversight plan. Instructors are not being notified if COVID cases occur in their classes, under an incorrect pretense that instructors maintaining 6 feet distance indoors is sufficient to rule them out as a close contact, given what we now know about airborne transmission risks.

    Scientists who attempt to forecast or determine risk should consider the precautionary principle, especially for risk profiles in which probability of events may be low, but consequences are high. We are facing this situation now.

    I don’t want to diminish the extraordinary efforts of our facilities staff and scientists involved in testing, because they deserve high praise, but there are too many unaddressed concerns to feel confident about re-opening with in-person classes.

    1. There was a BUtoday post some time ago on this and a few people asked about ventilation and got vague answers. We know more now than we knew then: Virus is in the air, stays in the air, and even gets kicked back up in the air from surfaces as students move in and out of classrooms. “6 feet with masks” is not enough to keep everyone safe during a 90 minutes session, especially without well fitted N95 masks if the ventilation is inadequate.

  13. There was a BUtoday post some time ago on this and a few people asked about ventilation and got vague answers. We know more now than we knew then: Virus is in the air, stays in the air, and even gets kicked back up in the air from surfaces as students move in and out of classrooms. “6 feet with masks” is not enough to keep everyone safe during a 90 minutes session, especially without well fitted N95 masks if the ventilation is inadequate.

  14. Thank you, Daniel Star, for articulating these concerns. My colleagues and I agree that It is the ultimate “bait & switch” for BU to be promising an experience to students that cannot be delivered in a way that meets their expectations. I find some of the comments here pretty appalling. Suggesting that the author isn’t willing to “roll up sleeves and go to work” when Star has been doing the work of talking honestly with students about serious matters, trusting them to make informed decisions, and guarding faculty against being told what and what not to say to students & being recruited into offering a PR spin. That is NOT OUR JOB! Without more voices like this one on the faculty, it appears to me that Higher Education is turning into Edu-Business.

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