Kentucky university refuses to go remote, says 'science shows' in-person learning is safe

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The University of Louisville is refusing to shift classes to a remote learning format, going against several major American universities opting to hold classes online for the beginning of the spring semester.

In a message to students on Sunday, members of the University of Louisville administration wrote that classes will be held in person despite the emergence of the omicron variant.

“After careful, ongoing review and significant discussion of the issues Omicron presents, we plan to continue in-person instruction and normal business operations this semester,” the message read.

The university administration members noted that more than 91% of faculty, students, and staff are vaccinated, with a large number having their booster shot as well. Additionally, the university noted that the risk of severe illness for people who are vaccinated “remains very low.”

University of Louisville campus. (Credit: University of Louisville)
((Credit: University of Louisville))

“Research shows that the Omicron variant causes less severe disease than previous variants,” the email states.

Citing an Indiana University study, the administrators also wrote that “COVID transmission was lower when students took more in-person classes.”

A shift to remote learning also impacts academic performance and mental health, as the university observed when remote learning was used during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The decision from the University of Louisville comes at a time when many American universities are beginning their spring semester remotely.

Some people are not happy with the decision to return to in-person classes, with almost 1,500 faculty, students, and parents signing a petition demanding that the University of Louisville allow course instructors to move their classes online.

A medical professional from UofL Health administers a vaccine to a patient in their vehicle at University of Louisville Cardinal Stadium on April 12, 2021 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)
((Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images))

The petition also demands that the university provide N95 or KN95 masks to all campus community members, offer “hazard pay to frontline staff,” and more.

The petition also demands that the university enforces “meaningful consequences” for failing to wear a mask or undergo regular testing.

John Karman III, executive director of communications at the University of Louisville, told Fox News that “the science shows that classroom learning is safe.”

“Because the science shows that classroom learning is safe and more effective, we feel it is vital to provide the best educational experience possible for our students,” Karman said.

Karman also responded to some concerns, stating that faculty members are unable to switch the mode of instruction for a given course.

“While it is true that faculty are not permitted to switch modality except in response to illness or compliance with quarantine and isolation protocols, it is also true that faculty are encouraged to develop and share continuity of instruction plans to ensure they are providing a high-quality educational experience in situations in which they are temporarily unable to conduct class in person,” Karman said.

Louisville, Kentucky, USA skyline on the river.

George Washington University, Columbia University, Duke University, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Temple University, the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of California at San Diego, the University of Washington, and more, all announced they will begin their spring semester remotely.

At Yale University, students were told to avoid visiting local businesses in the area until at least Feb. 7, stating that a “campus-wide quarantine” will be in effect. 

Princeton University is also restricting undergraduate student travel, stating in an announcement that travel outside the town or county is prohibited until mid-Febuary, except in “extraordinary circumstances.”

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