During the past month, many Fall 2021 undergraduate courses were unexpectedly switched from in-person to remote formats. These decisions have upset some students who have expressed frustration with the last-minute changes, especially after they had already secured housing.
The UCSD Guardian reached out to the Academic Senate in regards to the sudden changes of course modalities. The Senate responded with a quote from Strategic Communication and Engagement Manager, Kimberly Lamke Calderón:
“The Academic Senate is responsible for approving all courses of instruction, including those designed for online or remote learning,” Calderón’s statement read. “Because of the fast moving nature of the COVID pandemic, the Academic Senate’s Educational Policy Committee (EPC) approved an exception in Spring 2021 to allow any undergraduate or graduate course to be offered remotely in Fall 2021 without obtaining the Senate approvals ordinarily required.”
Calderón’s statement also explained that instructors make decisions about course modalities in collaboration with their academic departments and programs to best fit student needs.
The Guardian also contacted the UC San Diego administration regarding the number of in-person and remote courses during Fall 2021. According to Assistant Director of University Communications Erika Johnson, currently 76 percent (approximately 3,123) of courses at UCSD are in-person and 24 percent (992) courses are remote. These numbers are subject to change throughout the quarter as professors continue to use their discretion to change course modalities.
Many students have been left frustrated that their classes went online after they struggled to secure housing for the quarter amidst the housing crisis. John Muir College senior Savannah Muñoz, had all four of her courses changed to remote in August after she had found housing in San Diego.
“I honestly thought [courses would] be in person,” Muñoz said. “I paid half of my booking fees for an Airbnb because it was really difficult to find an apartment near-by UCSD that I could afford, and my credit score isn’t great, so I thought an Airbnb would be best. I reserved it back in June when we were getting emails that everything would be in person in the fall.”
Muñoz also shared her experience doing remote coursework in the 2020–21 academic year, but also acknowledged the concerns that professors may still have about teaching in-person.
“Honestly, I have ADHD and other issues that made remote classes extremely difficult for me the past year,” Muñoz added. “I’ve finally got the hang of it and a ton of support, so I think I’ll be okay, but I really was looking forward to being in person. But I understand that some professors don’t feel comfortable, so I totally respect that.”
Meanwhile, professors now have the responsibility to decide the safest option for themselves and their students. Gary Fields, a professor in the communication department, shared in an email with The Guardian about why he chose to go remote for his class.
“Let me first say, emphatically, that teaching in-person is far preferable for everyone — faculty and students alike,” Fields said. “When I finished my teaching in the Spring term, I thought it would be the last time I would ever teach online. I love the dynamism of a classroom. I waited until the very last moment to form an opinion about online teaching for our course. My concern, of course, was the health and safety not just for me, but for the students.”
Professor Fields also added that he chose to wait as long as possible to switch the course to a remote format for the safety of students:
“I know that the university has implemented very strict conditions on all campus activity,” Fields said. “At the same time, when I really thought about the prospect of 35 students in an enclosed room — even with all of the vaccination and masking protocols, I did not feel comfortable with the idea that my class could conceivably result in someone becoming infected with COVID.”
For Fall 2021, UCSD implemented numerous COVID-19 policies to conduct in-person classes. Fully vaccinated students living on-campus are required to test weekly for the first four weeks of fall quarter. On-campus students who are not fully vaccinated are required to do twice-weekly testing. This is in addition to the university’s vaccine mandate, which requires proof of vaccination for all students, staff, and faculty.
Photo by Darren Bradley Photography via The San Diego Tribune