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Faculty of Arts & Science: some 2020–2021 courses may switch from in-person to online delivery at instructor’s request

Students will be notified of potential changes the week of August 10
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ELENA IOURTAEVA / THE VARSITY
ELENA IOURTAEVA / THE VARSITY

A recent email from Faculty of Arts & Science Dean Melanie Woodin announced that the faculty will be working to “re-confirm” plans for in-person course delivery with instructors. This may lead to some course sections switching from in-person to online delivery. 

“Due to a variety of reasons some of our instructors have expressed they may not be ready to return to the classroom in September,” reads the email, citing that instructors may have family or other considerations. 

“When I realized that there were numerous instructors that were looking to reconsider for a variety of reasons, I wanted to take this pause to do it across the board so that if there were going to be changes, we could let students know about that now, before we get closer to September,” Woodin said in an interview with The Varsity regarding the announcement. She explained further that some instructors may find that the dual course delivery does not work for them, or they might have child care or health concerns.

Woodin confirmed that students will be notified the week of August 10 if an in-person course section they are enrolled in is changing its delivery method to online. Though Woodin could not estimate how many courses might be affected, she noted that information on any changes will likely roll out to students as plans for course delivery are confirmed between the faculty and its instructors. Instructors will be given details about the process to re-confirm or change their course delivery plans on August 4, and must submit their plans by Friday, August 7. 

“As a result of the evolving situation of the pandemic, a decision that an instructor might have made three months ago — for a unique set of circumstances for that individual instructor — might have changed,” Woodin explained. She added that, since teaching assistant (TA) hiring takes place well after instructors are confirmed, some decisions that were made prior to the hiring of the entire teaching team might not work in the present context. 

In addition, the email announced that the faculty is working to increase capacity for courses with waitlists. “This year out of any year, we need to add capacity where we can for students,” said Woodin, noting that the faculty still has some restrictions in its capacity due to the hiring and number of TAs. 

The university’s openness to in-person classes has already been put under pressure with a recent petition demanding that U of T to go entirely online in the fall. The petition has been signed by six U of T unions, including the University of Toronto Faculty Association and CUPE 3902, which represents academic contract workers such as TAs, and points to concerns that the university’s reopening plans are not safe enough. The petition has gained traction, with over 3,100 signatures so far.

Editor’s Note (July 31, 5:12 pm): This article has been updated to include more information on instructors’ concerns.