Michigan professors ask gov. to enforce online classes

Ottawa County

ALLENDALE, Mich. (WOOD) — A group of college professors across the state sent a letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer requesting she require most university classes to be taught online.  

The letter that was drafted by a group of Grand Valley State University professors has been circulating since Aug. 18, gaining signatures from roughly 300 professors hailing from a handful of Michigan universities.  

“We are asking you to step in, either to move most university classes online (except those whose pedagogies absolutely will not work online),” the letter states.  

GVSU professor John Gabrosek said his statistics courses could easily be taught online with little to no educational value lost, which is why he helped draft the letter requiring the governor to make enforce this switch.  

“If we take those classes and have them online, we reduce the density of faculty and students on campus,” Gabrosek said. “That makes the classes that really need that face-to-face component more likely to make it through the semester.”

Also in the letter, educators request that the governor “offer clear regulations about how in-person standards must be maintained and what situations must trigger a return to primarily online learning.” 

“Right now, universities are doing that university to university,” Gabrosek said. “If they had the ability for the governor to say, ‘Hey, here are standards that apply to all universities,’ I think that would take a lot of the uncertainty out of it.” 

In the letter, the professors acknowledge the fact most students don’t prefer remote learning.  

“I do a lot better in person,” GVSU freshman Lauren Methner said. “I feel like in-person learning is a much better experience for the teacher and the learner.” 

The professors say this decision should be made regardless of student preference as this is a matter of safety.  

“After all, we don’t ask students in chemistry labs whether they’d prefer to wear goggles or not … ” the letter states.  

A spokesperson with the governor’s office responded to News 8 with the following statement regarding the letter:

“The governor respects MSU’s decision, no doubt made after careful consideration of all the factors facing the university.  Given the current state of the virus, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.  The governor and her departments will continue to provide data and other resources for our schools, colleges, and universities as they review their next steps and decide what path is best for their institution.  It’s important that they continue to work closely with their local health departments.  College presidents must continue to follow the science and data to make the best decisions they can to keep people safe.” 

GVSU Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Maria Cimitile also responded with the following statement:

The University Academic Senate (a body on which I sit as ex-officio) has been meeting regularly over the summer and has been instrumental in our fall planning, including many conversations with President Mantella and me, and sitting on fall planning committees.  

Grand Valley has a long tradition of shared governance and ensuring that all perspectives are heard as part of our decision-making process. The faculty and administration work collectively to honor all perspectives knowing that there is not a monolithic opinion among any group on campus. We are offering great flexibility to faculty, staff and students as we begin the academic year. Our students, including first-year students, have always had flexibility on whether or not they choose to live on campus. 

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