by Liam Gwynn
Dr. Christopher Aberson came forward to the Lumberjack with a story about how he was symptomatic and asked to teach online but was denied the opportunity and asked to teach in person instead. Provost Jenn Capps responded to these accusations after Aberson’s story was released. Capps claims that a majority of the time teachers are allowed to change modality, however, they have to meet certain requirements.
According to Capps, a professor seeking a modality change has to be verifiably ill and then has to seek approval from their department head to change modality. In cases like Aberson’s where the department head is the one asking, they have to seek approval from Capps directly. Capps couldn’t speak on Aberson’s case specifically due to confidentiality reasons, yet she was able to speak on similar hypothetical situations.
“I’d say eighty percent of the time a request for a change is being granted, when it’s not being granted, it’s because perhaps a person is operating off of being afraid or they are like ‘something could happen therefore I don’t want to teach in person I’m just going to shift my course online and I’ll let you know when I wanna come back,’” Capps said. “Well, that’s not somebody who is sick and that’s not the agreement that was made with the students.”
Aberson never tested positive for COVID-19 but he did claim he was symptomatic. In times where COVID-19 takes up the majority of the conversation, people are still getting sick with other illnesses and it can be confusing when symptoms of one illness overlap with COVID-19 symptoms. According to Capps and school policy, just coming in contact with COVID-19 is not enough to warrant staying home or teaching online.
“For students, faculty, and staff our current policy is that if you are vaccinated and you come into contact with somebody with COVID and you’re masked and vaccinated, that doesn’t mean that anything needs to change,” said Capps, continuing. “What you need to do is continue about your work and life and monitor and keep doing wellness checks, and if you start to experience symptoms then you get tested and isolate.”
Strangely enough, that is what Aberson was trying to do according to his accounts of the event. He came into contact with COVID-19, started feeling symptoms, and then requested a modality change. Aberson was under the impression that his request was possibly denied due to him being outspoken against different school policies. When asked about whether this was a genuine possibility, Capps firmly denied any bias in the deciding process.
“Oh of course not, that would be all kinds of wrong,” Capps said. “It’s just really centering on a couple of things, making sure the student gets the instructional experience that they desired and making sure that faculty and staff and student health is protected.”