U of O students file complaint against university, push for return to remote learning

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Updated: Jan. 12, 2022 at 4:51 AM PST
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EUGENE, Ore. (KPTV) – The University of Oregon and Oregon State University have returned to in-person learning after the holiday break, but some students at the University of Oregon are pushing for a return to remote learning because of the Omicron surge.

“If you have a lecture hall that in pre-COVID capacity seats 140 students and you’re sitting in a lecture hall with 138 of them in the middle of a spread of a highly contagious disease, that’s going to be worrying, whether you’re teaching or whether you’re sitting in that classroom and paying money to be there and to learn,” Mel Keller, President of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation, said.

The GTFF is the labor union that represents graduate fellows at the university. Keller said last week, the GTFF requested a return to online learning and the next day the university shared its plan to deal with Omicron.

Part of the plan allows for instructors or graduate fellows to move courses online on two conditions. The first condition requires support from their deans and department heads and the second requires that their classes must be experiencing 20% or more COVID-19 related absences.

“The university has provided very little guidance on how the 20% number is supposed to be reached. They do not tell us if it’s supposed to be based on, you know, test and trace capabilities, if students are self-reporting, what instructors are supposed to do to get this information from students and instead just relying on each individual instructors’ interpretation,” Keller said.

On January 10, the GTFF filed an Unfair Labor Practice Complaint against the university because it is now requiring instructors to record classes and lectures for students who have to go remote.

“We in general support going remote ... this does constitute a change in our working conditions, which is something that needs to be bargained over as we are the legal bargaining representative of GE’s at the University of Oregon,” Keller said.

The University of Oregon told FOX 12 that it has initiated a review of the filing.

If a class is operating remotely right now, the university said it expects all courses to return to in person by February 7. However, Keller pointed out that the university is not requiring proof of booster shots until January 31, leaving a gap for when some students may be on campus without boosters.

“We know that nobody wants to go remote but if the university doesn’t deal with things that are happening right now we’re going to all have to go remote and deal with a much larger impact of Omicron later in the term,” Keller said.

Oregon State is not implementing a threshold number like the University of Oregon and told us they’re leaving it up faculty to decide if they need to return to remote learning temporarily.