“We are discouraged from “sharing Covid data that is not related to the course.” Presumably, nattering on about the state’s overburdened hospitals, worn-down physicians, and increasing death counts might constitute “pressure,” and faculty “should not pressure students to get vaccinated or wear a mask.” The most we can do is “encourage.” In practice, these guidelines have left faculty proffering details of their personal lives to crowds of unmasked students. We have become beggars and supplicants, hoping for mercy.”
Those are the words of Amy Olberding, Presidential Professor of Philosophy at University of Oklahoma, writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education about the University of Oklahoma‘s complete and utter failure to take even minimal precautions to protect its faculty, staff, and students from COVID-19.
This first week of fall semester, my colleagues are out making the rounds, meeting their classes for the first time and, this year, telling stories about their own lives. One professor speaks of her baby, too young to vaccinate. Another mentions an immunocompromised spouse at home. Still another tells of a sibling, lately deceased from Covid. Though each tale has its own rhythm and tone, they tend to end alike: Faculty nervously offer masks to their bare-faced students, who mostly decline to take them. Some look away sheepishly, some placidly stare, some sneer. Then class as we used to know it must begin, with introductory tours through syllabi, requirements, and course aims…
At the University of Oklahoma, located in a “high risk state“:
- Students are not required to wear masks in classrooms or other indoor spaces
- There are no signs encouraging students to wear masks
- Faculty are prohibited from providing incentives to students to wear masks
- Faculty are officially discouraged from structuring in-class group work in a way that attends to who is or is not wearing masks
- Students are not required to get vaccinated
- Students are not required to notify their professors when they contract COVID-19
- Free on-campus COVID-19 testing has been eliminated
- There apparently is no “surveillance testing” of students for COVID-19
- “The university holds public events where unmasked administrators lead hundreds of unmasked freshmen in yelling out the school’s spirit chants”
Professor Olberding writes:
Our stories do not yield fully masked classes. In a small classroom stuffed with 40 or 50 students, just a handful will wear a mask. Classes packing in hundreds may have fewer than half masked. Some faculty post online about their successes in getting students to wear masks. I read these posts closely because I want to know if there is some magic key, a particular appeal or strategy that could reliably work. I am a moral philosopher by trade, so I am also natively interested in how to morally motivate people to do what they’d rather not. So far, I have not uncovered any secrets…
We offer up our vulnerable loved ones, our bereavements, or our own medical histories like sacrifices before fickle gods — gods who, it turns out, are mostly teenagers vested with powers divine by our administration. We beg teenagers to think of our babies, to feel for our dead, and please not to kill us. Some of them oblige. Some do not — an alarming number do not. The university’s response so far amounts to: Beg better.
You can read the whole essay here.