Art by Ariana Henry
As of Feb. 15, there are 1,099 Spring 2022 COVID-19 cases in the Pepperdine community, 155 of which are employee cases according to the Pepperdine COVID-19 Dashboard.
The Graphic reported student emotions in relation to returning to campus during a heightened wave of COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County. Students expressed feelings of disappointment toward Pepperdine’s response to the highly contagious Omicron variant.
However, there has been less attention on the emotions and opinions of Pepperdine faculty.
Faculty had to follow additional guidelines and safety protocols in comparison to students. During the Jan. 4 President’s Briefing, employees were the first members of the Pepperdine community required to wear surgical or KN95 masks in the classroom.
The University’s firm stance to return to a fully in-person modality showed complete disregard for faculty who may be immunocompromised or belong to a particular demographic who are more susceptible to worsened symptoms of COVID-19, such as age or ethnicity.
An additional extension to remote learning could have been beneficial for faculty to feel safer and more equipped to teach amid the surge in cases.
As of Feb. 2, the student body, which stands at approximately 3,500, still has a lower vaccination rate compared to the approximately 700 faculty members. As a result, faculty members are taking a great risk of contracting COVID-19 and passing it on to their loved ones by returning to the classroom where they come face-to-face with students daily.
A rather new challenge that faculty members face is the concept of dual-modality teaching. Due to the surge of student cases at the beginning of the semester, large groups of students were in quarantine or isolation and had to attend class via Zoom while non-infected students attended classes in-person.
Professors are required to teach a group of students virtually and a group of students in the classroom simultaneously. There is no doubt that students are also feeling the negative effects of this new change whether on the screen or at a desk.
It is helpful to compare Pepperdine’s COVID-19 restoration plan to other universities in LA County such as the University of California Los Angeles and Loyola Marymount University. UCLA extended remote learning until Jan. 28, after deeming that enhanced testing requirements were not sufficient, given the regional and campus trends in COVID-19 positivity rates.
UCLA required weekly testing requirements for all community members and strongly encouraged students and faculty to get tested twice weekly. LMU also required boosters for its community members and placed an extension on remote learning to protect the safety of all stakeholders. In contrast, Pepperdine did not enforce vaccination booster requirements for in-person attendance nor enhance community testing requirements.
The University’s response and policies do not reflect that of an institution who deeply cares about the health and wellness of its foundation its community. Faculty members are at the core of Pepperdine’s brand and they deserve so much more.
The Seaver College administration should be conducting regular outreach to faculty to measure levels of comfortability in the workplace and ultimately allow professors to decide which modality they would like to teach in until COVID-19 cases dramatically decline.
Follow the Graphic on Twitter: @PeppGraphic
Email Halle Bowe: firstname.lastname@example.org