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Franklin College administrators are reminding the campus community to follow the school’s policy on virtual learning after receiving complaints from some professors.

Dean of Students Andrew Jones and Dean of the College Kristin Flora outlined the policy in a recent email to students, where the deans asked students to not ask their professors to attend class online unless they have approval from the nurse. Other problems students face, including car troubles and family emergencies, are not reasons to ask for virtual access, the email said.

“It is not that those issues are unimportant, or that we don’t sympathize with the reality of difficult circumstances,” the email continued, “simply that is is unsustainable for individual faculty members to manage the constant, varying requests.”

Jones and Flora said they sent the reminder after hearing frustration and confusion from several faculty members, who argued students’ last-minute requests to attend class online even if the course is being taught in person is creating difficulty when teaching.

“As time passed, people forgot the original policy or went around the original policy, so we started to see some inconsistency with the adherence,” Flora said. “It just seemed a good time, as we were pretty early in the spring semester, to remind everybody...we’re reserving the virtual option for conditions that have been medically cleared through the Health Center.”

English Professor Richard Erable serves as chair of the faculty steering committee, a group that represents faculty concerns to administrators. Like Flora, he reiterated that a number of faculty were concerned about how many students were asking to attend class last minute. Erable said professors are concerned about this because it can disrupt how faculty teach their courses.

“You’ve got half the class, let’s say—as I did towards the end of last semester, for example, and...it was beginning to happen again this semester—where at least half the class is online,” Erable said. “It’s very difficult to have class discussion.”

One of the main pitfalls of students online, Erable said, is that professors can’t confirm if students are engaged and understanding the material. Many faculty don’t require students to turn on their cameras out of respect for privacy, he said, which can complicate communication.

Jones said students should still reach out to him or Flora if they would like to discuss using the virtual option for reasons outside the COVID-19 plan. Some ideas that have been discussed for the future include giving students a virtual option if they know they might not be able to attend in person for an extended period, Jones said, such as recovering from a surgery.

“We’re not trying to put up obstacles to make things more challenging,” Jones said. “We’re just trying to make things consistent and equitable, and manageable for faculty. Not at the expense of students, but in the service of students.”

Students interested in learning more about the policy are encouraged to reach out to Jones or Flora for a meeting. They can also connect with the deans through their professors.

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