2 professors say Nebraska college refused remote teaching

WAYNE, Neb. (AP) — Two Wayne State College professors say they are frustrated that their requests to teach remotely this fall were denied.

Longtime history professor 76-year-old Don Hickey said he hired an attorney after college officials rejected his request.

“This is a scandal to us — that they’re playing hardball with senior faculty and putting them at risk,” Hickey said.

After Hickey told administrators he would teach his classes remotely whether they approved or not he was told his classes would be taught on campus by other faculty members. Hickey has taught at the school since 1978.

Another Wayne State history faculty member, 63-year-old Joseph Weixelman, also had his request rejected. Weixelman said he has multiple sclerosis and that medications for that disease suppress the immune system, which could make him more susceptible to severe illness from the COVID-19 virus.

“I feel scared,” said Weixelman, who plans to teach his courses on campus starting Monday. “With my age and a preexisting condition, I’m not sure I would make it through” a bout with COVID-19.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

A spokeswoman for the Nebraska State College System said fewer than 20 professors requested accommodations for teaching this fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Spokeswoman Judi Yorges said she wasn’t sure how many requests were granted.

Yorges said in a statement that decisions “have been made with the best interests of our students and staff in mind. It is unfortunate if these efforts are misrepresented as ‘playing hardball.’ ”

Yorges said officials believe that face-to-face engagement with professors and on-campus living experiences are vital to state college students. She said colleges reduced class sizes and made other changes to promote safety this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Nebraska reported 253 new cases of coronavirus Saturday to give the state 30,241 cases of the virus. The state’s online virus tracker said there have been 361 deaths linked to the virus.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska decreased over the past two weeks, going from 291 new cases per day on Aug. 1 to 269.14 new cases per day on Aug. 15.

Categories: Education News, Nebraska News