University of North Georgia lecturers resign instead of teaching in person

Classes began Monday, Aug. 23, 2021 at the University of North Georgia. Two lecturers on the Gainesville campus have resigned over COVID-19 protocols.

Credit: Courtesy of University of North Georgia

Credit: Courtesy of University of North Georgia

Classes began Monday, Aug. 23, 2021 at the University of North Georgia. Two lecturers on the Gainesville campus have resigned over COVID-19 protocols.

University of North Georgia lecturers Cornelia Lambert and Lorraine Buchbinder were scheduled to begin teaching Monday, the first day of the fall semester, on the school’s Gainesville campus.

Instead, they were home. They both resigned because the university’s COVID-19 safety protocols are insufficient to teach in person, they said.

Both lecturers were supposed to teach five courses this semester, with a total of about 160 students in those classes. The university said Monday it has assigned other faculty members to teach the courses.

Cornelia Lambert resigned her position as a lecturer at the University of North Georgia, saying she could not teach in person due to concerns that the university's COVID-19 safety protocols are inadequate. CONTRIBUTED

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The decisions reflect the mounting frustration among many faculty members at public and private colleges and universities across Georgia that their schools do not have enough resources or enforcement guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on their campuses. Some Spelman College faculty announced Thursday they wouldn’t teach in person unless the school provided “clear and enforceable protocol and safety guidelines.” Spelman administrators announced several changes, such as providing masks and other sanitation supplies in each classroom, and the college said faculty would return to in-person instruction Monday.

Many of the state’s largest colleges and universities have reported an increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases in recent weeks as students have returned to campus. The University of North Georgia reported on its website Monday 57 positive student and 16 positive employee cases in the last 14 days. University officials note the numbers include reports by students and employees who have self-reported a positive COVID-19 test and the totals may include reports from individuals who have not been on campus recently. The entire university had nearly 20,000 students and more than 660 faculty members last year.

In separate interviews Monday with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, both North Georgia lecturers said their decisions were difficult, but necessary. Lambert and Buchbinder said they hoped the university would allow them to teach remotely or require students and faculty to wear face coverings in classrooms and other indoor spaces as cases and hospitalizations have risen in recent weeks. North Georgia, which is part of the University System of Georgia, is following the system’s guidelines, which recommends — but doesn’t require people to wear masks indoors. Vaccinations are urged, but not required for University System students, faculty and staff.

“The University of North Georgia has offered the vaccine to students, faculty and staff since it became available in the spring and will continue to hold a variety of vaccine clinics through fall semester,” the university said in a statement.

Lambert, 45, who teaches a course on the history of infectious diseases, said she wrestled for weeks with whether she could teach in person.

“I just began to feel (in-person teaching) was inconsistent with my values as a scholar and as a teacher,” said, Lambert, who has been teaching there since 2015.

Lambert discussed her decision Friday on Twitter. Her comments drew scores of largely supportive responses. A few critics responded that she was acting out of privilege.

“I am privileged, but the students I’ve come to know are vulnerable and I feel like the university is taking advantage of them by having face-to-face courses,” she said.

Buchbinder, 69, who has taught at the school for two decades, initially agreed to teach in person this semester, but changed her mind as cases increased due to the highly contagious delta variant. She hoped to teach remotely, but said department officials told her that wasn’t an option.

“I feel like the Board of Regents was asking me to choose between my health, my family’s health and my job,” she said.

Correction: An earlier version of this article had an incorrect quote from Buchbinder.