March 5, 2021

Auburn to fully resume on-campus operations after remote virus work

Auburn University is fully resuming on-campus operations that were disrupted by the coronavirus last year.

All optional remote instruction will end on Sunday and most employees who have been working on a virtual basis will return to campus on Monday, the Opelika-Auburn News reported. The decision to reopen was based on multiple factors, said Dr. Fred Kam, director of the university medical clinic.

“You’re looking at all the data, all of the information and … you’re forecasting on where you think things will be,” Kam said.

The university has seen a downward trend in COVID-19 since 113 cases were reported during the week ending Jan. 17. The university said 75 new virus cases were self-reported during the week ending Jan. 31, three fewer cases than the previous week. The school also reported a 0.9% positivity rate among those tested through its voluntary sentinel testing, according to data released Tuesday.

Multiple safeguards are in place for the campus to reopen safely, including a universal mask policy. Still, not everyone will return.

“Some of the faculty who are vulnerable are going to continue to teach their courses remote,” Kam said. “Some are going to flex, so they’ll do some on campus, some remote.”

Journalism professor John Carvalho is confident he and his students will be safe.

“I personally have been OK with doing face-to-face classes, but as long as the university has been allowing students to opt-out (in favor of online instruction), I have not been forcing them to come to class,” he said.

Susan Fillippeli, who also teaches journalism, said she feels safe with campus reopening. She is teaching a class with 94 students, about half of whom attend in person and half of whom participate online.

“We are in a large lecture hall, so there is plenty of room for the students attending to spread out, and everyone is wearing a mask,” she said.

Kam said some faculty, however, believe the school should only offer remote instruction and not return to in-person learning.

He said the university is prepared with multiple options in case a COVID-19 outbreak occurs.

“We will do what we think is safer, and it may be that we close campus and go back to all remote; it could be that in some cases, if we’re having an outbreak in, let’s say, a specific dorm, we may quarantine that whole dorm,” he said.