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OSU responds to CAS letter of concerns

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Photos outside the College of Arts and Sciences offices on September 9, 2020 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Last week, Oklahoma State University administration said “no known cases have been linked to a classroom environment” in a response to the College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Council’s statement of immediate concerns. 

In the statement, the Faculty Council listed areas of concern regarding the university’s response to COVID-19 including; data and transparency, prompt notification of faculty regarding student cases, testing, and mode of teaching and transition thresholds. The authors also included recommendations for administration. A full breakdown of the statement is available here.

Data sharing and transparency

In this section, the authors said the weekly dashboard updates are “inadequate for keeping faculty informed.” 

“The weekly summaries on the OSU dashboard are also too infrequent for a sufficiently rapid and adaptive response to this highly dynamic situation,” The statement reads.

The response by administrators said that the dashboard will now be updated biweekly, on Tuesday and Friday. 

“We also eliminated the campus community “positivity” percentage that caused concern for some,” the response reads.

Prompt notification of faculty regarding student cases

“No clear procedures are in place to inform faculty about positive cases in their classrooms,” the statement of concerns reads. “Faculty and also graduate student TAs are relying almost entirely on self-reporting from students.”

The Faculty Council recommended applying the broadest definition of “close contact” and notifying faculty immediately after learning a student enrolled in their class tested positive for COVID-19. 

Administration said there are no known cases linked to a classroom setting.

“Payne County Health conducts all contact tracing efforts,” the response reads.  

The response cites classroom set-ups, with masks and social distancing, as the reason faculty is not considered a “close contact” and not notified about a positive case in their class. 

Testing 

The CAS Faculty council said OSU has done a “tremendous job” with testing, but the number of tests performed on the university population appears inadequate, even with the 500 students randomly selected for testing each week.

This is particularly true if, as it appears, many students are testing outside of UHS and have no obligation to self-report,” the Faculty Council said. 

“The university continues to increase capacity for testing and has implemented a randomized testing program the first week of August,” the administration’s response reads.

The response also mentioned plans to evaluate using wastewater and “other progressive means of detection.”

Mode of teaching and transition thresholds 

“No defined criteria for transitioning from face-to-face to online teaching modes have been communicated to the faculty,” the Faculty Councils concern reads. “This increases uncertainty in what is already a very difficult and stressful situation.

OSU administration did not respond to this concern.

This story is developing, and will be updated as more information becomes available.