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August 25, 2020

Temple students, faculty call for all-remote classes as fall semester begins

The university plans to move forward with hybrid instruction model

Education Temple University
Temple University in-person classes Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

Temple University is one of several colleges in the Philly region that is bringing students back to campus this fall for at least some in-person instruction.

Temple University began the fall semester Monday with students and faculty back on campus for some in-person instruction. 

But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Temple's faculty union and student government are calling on the university to revert to all-remote learning in order to ensure health and safety.

The Temple Association of University Professionals is demanding that union members be exempt from in-person instruction. 

"We do not see evidence that Temple’s plans to return to campus will result in the safe working conditions demanded by experts and supported by the union’s membership and leaders," the union said in a statement. 

The union wants its members to be able to work remotely until the university meets a number of demands. Among them:

• Permitting faculty members to teach remotely without providing explanation

• Providing free health care to anyone who lacks insurance and must work on campus

• Keeping anyone unable to work due to COVID-19 on the payroll for the duration of their contract

• Permitting faculty members to report health and safety violations without fear of discipline

A full list of the union’s demands can be accessed here.

"The university must base decisions on an ethic centered on care, sound public health policy, equity, transparency and justice," the organization wrote. "The risks to all students, campus employees and neighbors in the surrounding communities are too great. Unnecessary illness and fatalities must be avoided. No one should have to choose between their life and their livelihood."

Temple Student Government is urging the university to cancel all in-person instruction and close all residence halls.

"The ongoing state of the COVID-19 pandemic makes it impractical for students to proceed with their academic studies in person," the organization wrote. "Although we are aware of the challenges that the administration is facing preparing for the upcoming semester, we cannot accept that students, faculty and the Philadelphia community will be put at a great risk at the expense of our education and college experience.

"It is detrimental to our Philadelphia community to continue to welcome students back on campus for in-person activities. Additionally, there is no rational way to ensure that Temple’s four public health pillars will be obeyed by every single Temple student and staff member."

Those pillars require everyone to wear masks, practice social distancing and good hand hygiene, and monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms. 

Temple Student Government also is demanding resident assistants receive hazard pay and are tested weekly for the coronavirus, clearer policies regarding excused work for students who contract COVID-19 and increased student representation in the university's decision making process regarding instruction. 

“The only adequate resolution to ensure the safety of our students, faculty and North Philadelphia community is to close Temple’s on-campus housing, with the exception of students facing housing insecurity, and move all non-essential in-person courses and activities to an online format," TSG wrote. 

The Temple Student Coalition for Change, a student advocacy group, called in-person classes "criminal."

"This requires students to live near campus, creating a massive pool of college kids living in the city," the organization tweeted. "Telling them to 'mask up' isn’t enough. Telling them to stand 6 ft apart isn’t enough. To think or pretend otherwise is criminal."

It is criminal for @templeuniv to continue to hold in-person classes. This requires students to live near campus,...

Posted by Student Coalition for Change on Sunday, August 23, 2020

The university is using hybrid instruction model to reduce the number of students on campus. Only about 9,000 students are expected on campus this fall, about a third of the 27,000 students who returned last August, the university said. 

To promote social distancing, the university has reduced the number of seats in classrooms from 15,000 to 3,300, according to the university. Hand sanitizer stations have been placed across campus, Enhanced cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surface areas has been implemented. And indoor ventilation has been approved.

Temple also will open a COVID-19 testing center on campus this week.

In a statement to PhillyVoice, the university said that it is moving forward with its plans for in-person learning this fall. But if conditions with the pandemic worsen, the university said that it is prepared to pivot to all-remote learning.

"Many of our students, especially our first-year students, told us they wanted to have an on-campus component if it could be done safely," the university said. "We’ve also heard from faculty who are eager to get back on campus." 

Several other colleges in the Philadelphia-area still plan to hold at least some in-person classes, including Villanova University, St. Joseph's University, Bryn Mawr College and Swarthmore College.

On the other hand, the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, LaSalle University, West Chester University and Rutgers University are primarily conducting classes online.

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