SFH class relocations can harm English, communication, foreign languages students and faculty

Katie Valley, Content Editor

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Students from various departments at Oakland University will soon be affected by classroom changes with South Foundation Hall’s (SFH) closure for renovations.

Professors have been asked by the provost’s office and the Registrar to either move their classes to online or hybrid forms, teach at 8 a.m. or at night, hold classes at OU’s Mount Clemens location or even teach on Saturdays during the year-and-a-half the building will be closed. All of these suggestions have one element missing: their impact on students.

Students with majors and minors in departments like English, communication and foreign languages have classes in SFH throughout their degree paths. These areas of study depend on classroom space, as they have some classes that are very in-person based. How can students discuss literature, review communication theories, or learn a foreign language completely online?

They may miss out on vital parts of their degrees because there’s no room on campus for their classes to take place while SFH is closed — that’s certain.

Some students who are new to these majors could feel discouraged to continue if online classes make them feel lost. Students who commute to campus will not want to take 8 a.m. classes, night courses, or even come to campus on Saturdays.

These students just want to learn, but might be barred from valuable knowledge with unfavorable class allocations. This should be something actively considered when determining where classes will be held when SFH is closed. 

Could some general education classes be moved online instead of literature, theory or foreign language classes?

When the SFH renovations were discussed at the Oct. 14 Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting, the efforts to move classrooms were acknowledged.

“We really appreciate the work that’s been done to highlight [the provost team’s efforts to relocate classes] because it’s not easy fitting all of those classroom spaces in elsewhere on campus,” said Scott Kunselman, chief operating officer.

It’s unimaginable the BOT would be satisfied that affected classes are being moved correctly if its members knew of the relocation-based insecurities felt by the OU community. With students and professors being upset about the Registrar’s requests, the university should be listening to the concerns about the closure.

Professors who prefer to teach in-person are also affected by the push to move courses online. Dr. Alison Powell, English and creative writing professor, said professors are losing their teaching spaces with little outside support.

As I understand it, faculty are being asked to come up with creative ways to make our classes feasible in terms of space and when they are offered, but aren’t given many resources to do so, Powell said via email. We’re awfully busy as it is, so it would be great if this construction project — which has a huge impact on our department, at least — had been more consciously handled by the powers that be.

According to Section 92 of the OU American Association of University Professors’ Collective Bargaining Agreement, professors can refuse to go online, but at what cost? 

This ability is emphasized in the section’s first sentence: “Faculty may VOLUNTARILY engage in the development and delivery of courses for credit to be delivered online.”

Thomas Discenna, full-time communication professor who said he would prefer to teach in-person, said part-time faculty could lose their class sections entirely by refusing to teach online if no classroom space is available.

These special lecturers would have the ability to refuse when asked to move courses online, but the university could simply tell them there’s no work for them that semester since there’s no classroom space — a concern likely held by more faculty members than Discenna.

In the long term, how might knowing that professors will teach differently if they have no other choice impact how classes are decided upon?

If the university cares so much about accommodating its students and professors, what will it do to ensure that everyone is happy during the SFH construction project?