Some Spelman faculty refusing to teach in person due to COVID-19 safety concerns

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5 quick facts about Spelman College

A group of Spelman College faculty are not teaching in person, saying in a message to students Thursday they have not received clear COVID-19 safety guidelines from administrators and plan to teach classes online until they do.

“The faculty at Spelman College were excited about returning to in-person instruction,” the message began. “However, much to our disappointment, faculty have not received clear and enforceable protocol and safety guidelines that will ensure our health and wellbeing when teaching face-to-face. While awaiting acceptable responses to these concerns, we have decided not to teach in-person. Most faculty will use alternative instructional methods for course delivery.”

It was not clear Thursday how many faculty members have decided not to teach in person.

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Thousands of faculty members across Georgia, primarily in the state’s public University System, have demanded through letters and petitions stronger safety regulations as classes have begun at many campuses this month. Spelman, a private, historically Black college for women, appears to be the first Georgia school where some faculty members have said they will not teach in person. Administrators stressed Thursday the college remains open for in-person instruction.

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Spelman, located near Mercedes-Benz Stadium, is part of the Atlanta University Center Consortium, which includes Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College and Morehouse School of Medicine. The schools announced in April that students, faculty and employees must be vaccinated for COVID-19 to be on campus this fall, unless they have an approved exemption. Classes began Wednesday.

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Just under half of Spelman students had been vaccinated as of last month, consortium officials reported to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Spelman officials have not yet provided updated vaccination numbers.

Spelman, which last year had nearly 250 faculty members and about 2,100 students, responded to the concerns Thursday by posting expanded guidance on its website. Spelman posted a 22-page document for faculty that includes rules requiring face coverings for employees and students in all classrooms and most indoor and outdoor spaces on campus, and consequences if students do not comply with the guidelines. Noncompliance will be considered a violation of the college’s code of conduct.

The 22-page document includes a question-and-answer section that notes students who attended an unsanctioned party a few days before the semester began have been tested for COVID-19 and will be tested again. The section said masks and other sanitation supplies will be placed in each classroom. Additionally, portable air purifiers have been placed in spaces on campus where social distancing is not possible and bedrooms without air conditioning.

“The health and safety of the Spelman community is a top priority as we restore the residential college experience this year,” the college said in a statement. “With the guidance of the medical community and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention we have implemented mandatory vaccinations, along with masking and periodic testing, in order to obtain the lowest possible risk to the campus community.”

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