University of Alabama Professor writes an open letter to the university on coronavirus concerns

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -On September 3, a frustrated professor penned an open letter to those in charge at the University of Alabama regarding the protocols and safety of students when it comes to COVID-19.

Professor of American Studies at the University of Alabama and part of the United Campus Workers Local 3965 Steering Committee, Michael Innis-Jimenez wrote the letter titled, “Stop Gaslighting Us” that was published in “The Crimson White,” the university’s paper.

The letter was meant to express Inis-Jimenez’s growing frustration with the university and how they’re handling the positive number of COVID-19 cases on campus.

According to the University’s COVID dashboard, the number of positive COVID-19 cases is over 2,000 students and the first month of the school year hasn’t even ended. As of September 8, including students, faculty, and staff, the number is 2,047 cases.

“The messaging coming from the system and UA and Tuscaloosa didn’t really match the facts on the ground and it was really frustrating. There were very positive messages with very troubling numbers,” Innis-Jimenez said.

Many would think with those types of numbers that the university would opt for virtual learning, but Innis-Jimenez says that’s not the case. “Faculty and staff, you know, they don’t really have a choice. Some people because of health reasons are able to work from home but, if you’re a faculty member and are supposed to be teaching in person, you can’t change that mode of delivery.”

According to Innis-Jimenez, instructors can’t make that decision to go virtual and the fear of contracting the virus is not a reason to opt-out of in-person classes, “The university has really come back several times and made it clear that nobody is supposed to change their mode of delivery until they say we’re going all online and if they say we’re going all online.”

There had been reports of a plan of action. Certain protocols, measures and numbers that would determine if the university would go to virtual learning, that was in the summer.

Innis-Jimenez says that once the fall semester began, that question was no longer being answered and was just ignored.

The professor’s main concern is how long will the university wait. “I don’t know what it’s going to take. We’ve gotten to 2,000. I would have thought that it would have been a lot earlier than this, you know, I don’t know what’s driving this decision.”

He ended the interview saying, “Over 50% of the students on this campus are from out of state. This is an Alabama thing, but, sending students off the Friday before Thanksgiving to go home, that’s what’s really scary,” this was in reference to the school not containing the students and quarantining them. That could cause a “super spread”.

Innis-Jimenez said according to the University, they said they’ve sent three-quarters of the current 2,000 student-cases home.

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