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Instructors can request to teach their courses fully online this fall, Provost Teresa Abi-Nader Dahlberg said in an email to faculty.

Deans will have to approve professors’ requests to designate their classes as online courses.

Instructors have been asked to complete a survey to give the university more information about their courses.

Students will have the option to take fall semester online

TCU students will have the option to take their entire semester in an online format this fall. 

Speaking at Wednesday’s Faculty Senate meeting, the provost said the offer, which has already been extended to all international students, will be extended to the rest of the student body in the near future. 

Read more: TCU executive compensation out paces faculty salaries and benefits

Dahlberg spoke for about 30 minutes at the Zoom meeting that capped out with 300 people viewing. Dahlberg gave an overview of the university’s plans to faculty, many of whom were frustrated and apprehensive about holding face-to-face classes in the fall.

Some said they were at a high-risk or lived with someone who was and did not feel comfortable teaching in a classroom. Others expressed frustration that students were receiving the option to opt out of in-person learning and faculty were not.

“One cough, one sneeze, and I could potentially infect my partner and kill them,” a faculty member said.

Along with the option for students to go online, Dahlberg also said TCU is in the process of moving some classes to an online format. 

Read more: TCU officials talk finances, semester plans in town hall

The provost said she was not comfortable with having courses with more than 40 people meet in person. 

For courses with fewer than 40 people, she expressed confidence that there is a space on campus where the class can be socially distanced in accordance with health guidelines.

“Our mission is teaching in a classroom,” she said. 

This prompted some pushback from faculty at the meeting, who asked why some professors are certified to teach fully online courses if classroom teaching is the university’s mission. 

Dahlberg said the goal is to limit online courses to 30% to 40% of all courses and avoid a tipping point that may lead to fewer students paying tuition. 

“Students at TCU right now did not enroll for an online education,” she said. 

Asked for further details about safety protocols and teaching guidelines, Dahlberg asked for patience from the faculty. 

One professor noted there are just 7 weeks until classes are set to begin. 

Read more: Chancellor announces early start date for fall semester

Others asked why the provost was able to put a percent number on online course limitations, but unable to provide specifics about things like how many positive tests the university will tolerate on campus before moving to a fully online semester.

Faculty Senate Chair Sean Atkinson acknowledged the difficult position the administration is in, but reiterated the need for more questions to be answered. 

“The uncertainty of the pandemic makes planning for on-campus operations nearly impossible. I further appreciate the Provost’s willingness to come to the Senate meeting and directly answer questions from faculty,” he said. “However, there are many questions regarding the health and safety of faculty, staff, and students that still do not have complete answers, and I hope that we can get those answers as soon as possible.”

The university currently has 70 cases — 61 involve off-campus students — with a direct or indirect tie to campus, according to the university’s COVID-19 webpage

With most of the cases involving students, there are concerns about how the full student body will be able to safely return. 

“How are we confident of our protocols?” one faculty member asked.