Penn State University re-opened fall 2021 classes on its campuses, but faculty members are resisting the return to in-person, normal classes due to the pandemic. Administrators told faculty members that the campuses will be safe, due to upgrading ventilation, imposing mask mandates for indoor activities, and weekly testing of unvaccinated students.
But these concessions were not enough for faculty at Penn State University, which wanted the university to impose a vaccine mandate for students and staff. The faculty members planned to protest by only providing virtual instruction through Zoom, a video conferencing platform.
The Coalition for a Just University, the faculty group organizing the protest, said the “Zoom-in” action is an effort to keep students, colleagues, and community members across the Commonwealth safe from the rapid spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19.” The group claimed that “almost 300 faculty” will participate in the protest.
And, par for the course, labor groups supported the coalition’s actions.
Further inflaming the debate over vaccine mandates among the faculty were the deaths of two Penn State students due to the coronavirus during the last academic year and at the start of this academic year.
Penn State administrators indicated that they will not back down to faculty demands. University spokesman Wyatt Dubois said that the university expects faculty to follow the university’s directive to hold in-person classes and warned the protest participants “may of course be subject to disciplinary sanctions.”
In place of a vaccine mandate, Penn State offered incentives for students to get vaccinated, while forcing unvaccinated students to receive daily testing. The university’s provost, Nicholas Jones, said that students who quarantine cannot rely on remote classes this year.