Majority of Georgia Tech profs call for 'default' virtual instruction

The petition also asks for mandatory tests and contact tracing measures.

A large majority of Georgia Tech professors have signed a petition asking for default virtual instruction in the fall due to concerns over coronavirus.

The vast majority of faculty members of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta circulated a petition for the delivery of classes to be online by “default.” 

They also call for wide-scale coronavirus testing, mandatory face masks, and other measures for the little instruction that is carried out on campus. Georgia Tech’s current reopening plan was recently adjusted to require “all faculty, staff, students, and visitors to wear an appropriate face covering while inside campus facilities/buildings where six feet social distancing may not always be possible.”

As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Georgia Tech received more than $10.3 million in federal taxpayer funding, half of which was required to be distributed directly to students. Georgia, with a population of 3.9 million, has reported more than 136,000 coronavirus cases, more than 21,000 of which occurred within the past seven days. More than 3,180 people in Georgia have died from coronavirus. While the number of cases in Georgia has increased overall since the state reopened, the number of coronavirus deaths has remained relatively unchanged day over day and week over week since the height of the pandemic in early April, according to the latest data.

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The university’s website currently states that “as part of the fall plan, each course and section will be designated as residential (in-person with physical distancing), hybrid with limited in-person attendance, or remote,” but that “the majority of courses will have some in-person attendance.”

The faculty members stated in their petition, “We are alarmed to see the Board of Regents and the University System of Georgia mandating procedures that do not follow science-based evidence. We assert that current reopening plans are inconsistent with a safe return to campus by students, staff, and faculty.”

More than 860 faculty members have signed the petition. Given that Georgia Tech employs 1,162 total instructional employees, the signers of the petition represent three-quarters of all instructors.

[RELATED: Fall reopenings a mixed bag for campuses]

The faculty requests that the President of Georgia Tech “act independently to safeguard the health and safety needs of the Georgia Tech community.” In addition to default online delivery of classes, the faculty also ask for large-scale COVID-19 testing and contact tracing initiatives.

An accompanying petition for non-professor members of the Georgia Tech community who endorse the faculty’s petition had amassed more than 3,060 signatures as of July 14, with a note indicating that organizers were no longer counting signatures.

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