The University Senate Committee on Faculty Affairs holds a meeting to discuss hybrid courses and the upcoming semester

Because it’s the semester midpoint, faculty and staff will evaluate how the school year has progressed thus far.

The Georgia State community has experienced a lot of change this year, from Georgia State University President Mark Becker’s resignation to hybrid learning. The University Senate Committee on Faculty Affairs held a meeting on Thursday to discuss plans moving forward.

There are 19 University Senate committees.

According to the University Senate website, the Faculty Affairs Committee is responsible for “review[ing] and recommend[ing] to the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost. [The committee must also review] the University Senate policies which relate to faculty members and their welfare.”

At Thursday’s meeting, the committee addressed students and hybrid learning. Provost Wendy Hensel began the discussion by telling her colleagues that students need to be attending class.

“As a faculty, [we need to] come together and start having conversations,” she said. “How do we use that in-person time for blended classes? How do we communicate with students that they have to attend? Because right now, I think that the message has been [that] students can come or not come, depending on what they want.”

Hensel said that students who choose not to come to class tend to “communicate something different.” She believes that some students use COVID-19 to their advantage when opting out of going to class, relaying that “they don’t have the opportunity.”

“We want to actively control as much of this as we can from outside interference because that interference is not expert interference,” she said. “Everybody wants a simple answer to an extraordinarily complex situation.”

As the spring semester approaches, professors need to decide “right now” if they can adapt to the 25% in-person model. Students are slowly returning to in-person classes. Professors will either have a 50% in-person class or higher, but there is no higher capacity for Georgia State to hold more courses online. There will be more hybrid courses in the upcoming semester.

“You all have had far more flexibility, because of the [hybrid] process that we have created, in identifying whether you are comfortable in the classroom or whether you wanted to teach online,” Hensel said.

Georgia State’s administration has to accommodate both the University System of Georgia and professors when considering different course structures. Hensel said that holding a minimum number of in-person courses is mandatory, but “the good news is” that the hybrid model seems to be safe.

“I’m not gonna guarantee your safety any more than I can guarantee your safety crossing Piedmont Road,” she said. “But at the bottom line, we have to do something concrete to serve our students who are struggling in this space.”

Students who are exposed to COVID-19 are granted a “liberal attendance policy”, but students who are not diagnosed with the virus must show up to their hybrid course’s in-person segment.

“We need to re-instill the expectation, and there will be a communication process parallel to what I’m telling you, to students. They need to show up,” Hensel said.