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Three internal emails indicate Temple University is considering holding nonessential in-person classes in Spring 2021, though the university has not made any official announcement on the status of the semester.
An email sent to faculty in the College of Science and Technology from Michael Klein, the college’s dean, on Wednesday indicated the university has set a target of 20 percent of spring classes being held with an in-person component.
“President [Richard] Englert is particularly concerned that many of Temple’s schools and colleges are not offering enough in-person components to their undergraduates,” Klein wrote. “Specifically, he is concerned that the students are not getting enough in-person interaction/engagement with their instructors.”
The emails, obtained by The Temple News, indicate that spring in-person classes may be flexible, allowing some sessions to meet in person while others meet online.
A separate email sent Wednesday from Richard Deeg, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, sought faculty volunteers for in-person instruction and indicated Temple’s administration asked the college to increase the number of in-person classes offered on Main Campus for the spring.
President Richard Englert announced at the Oct. 13 Board of Trustees meeting that a formal announcement on the spring semester was expected by the end of this month.
“We continue to explore options for the spring and are working with deans, department chairs and faculty to determine the best blend of in-person and online classes to meet students’ needs,” wrote Ray Betzner, a spokesperson for the university, in an email to The Temple News.
Temple conducted a hybrid of in-person and online classes for one week this fall before announcing a two-week suspension of in-person classes and later moving all nonessential classes online in response to rising COVID-19 cases among students on campus, The Temple News reported.
Classes deemed essential, like performance, ensemble and laboratory classes involving more hands-on skills have remained in-person, The Temple News reported.
At the outbreak’s peak, Temple reported 350 active COVID-19 cases among students and employees on Sept. 6. In total, 554 cases have been reported from the week of Aug. 24 to the week of Oct. 12, The Temple News reported.
The university knows of no instances of COVID-19 infection resulting from in-person classes during the fall semester, Betzner wrote.
The City of Philadelphia indicated in August that the primary source of COVID-19 transmission among Temple students in the fall was small, off-campus gatherings, The Temple News reported.
An “indispensable precondition” of a successful in-person semester, as evidenced by other schools who have been holding in-person classes, is a strong testing program, Deeg wrote. Temple is working on a “new and robust” testing program, according to Deeg’s email.
An email from Dustin Kidd, the director of Temple’s Intellectual Heritage program, sent Friday asked adjuncts in the department to indicate whether they would volunteer to teach in-person classes in the spring and how many times they would prefer their class to meet in-person.
West Chester University and the Community College of Philadelphia have announced that all nonessential classes would be held online in the spring. The University of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania State University have both pushed back the start of their semesters and shortened or cut their spring breaks.
Nearly 80 percent of members of Temple Association of University Professionals, the union which represents approximately 2,700 faculty members, called on the university in September to hold online classes in the spring, citing the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s COVID-19 model, which currently projects more than 385,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States by February 2021.
Steve Newman, president of TAUP, said faculty need clarity from the administration about its process for determining how many classes will meet in-person and what their plan is for testing students, faculty and staff. TAUP stands by its demand that its members should be able to choose without any penalty whether to teach in-person or not, he added.