The UA’s Arkansas Traveler reports on a faculty Senate vote last week asking that UA employees be allowed to work remotely because of the rise in COVID-19 cases.

The administration isn’t moved. The leadership knows who butters their bread — the COVID deniers in the legislature and governor’s office. Butts in seats and tax revenue in the state treasury are more important than health to “leaders.”

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From the coverage:

Rob Wells, an associate professor of journalism, put in a request to UA Human Resources on August 20 to move his in-person classes remote this fall because of his wife’s medical condition.  She is immunocompromised, diabetic and underwent a lung transplant in 2016 for a serious lung disease. Officials at the University of Maryland Medical Center Department of Pulmonary and Transplant Medicine, where she received her transplant, documented her condition and supported Wells’ request.

The acting provost denied his request on August 24, but Wells found a solution when Larry Foley, chair of the School of Journalism and Strategic Media and J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences leaders advocated on his behalf. Now, Wells is teaching two classes online.

“The provost did not approve [the request] and did not explain why,” Wells said.  “So I am very grateful for [Foley and the others’] support and advocacy on my behalf.”

[History faculty member Michael] Pierce said the 2020-21 school year demonstrated that employees can get the job done at home.  His main priority, beside protecting university employees, is to make sure students feel safe while in their learning environment, he said.

“I think you’ll be a better quality student if you’re not worried that your presence in the classroom is threatening your health,” Pierce said.

The UA faculty is not alone in concern about face-to-face teaching during a rise in COVID cases. The New York Times reports:

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The American College Health Association recommends vaccination requirements for all on-campus higher education students for the fall semester. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends face coverings, regardless of vaccine status, for indoor public spaces in areas where the rate of infection is high.

But this is not how it has worked out on more than a few campuses.

More than 1,000 colleges and universities have adopted vaccination requirements for at least some students and staff, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. In an indication of how political vaccination has become, the schools tend to be clustered in states that voted for President Biden in the last election.

But at some campuses, particularly in Republican-led states with high rates of contagion — like the state systems in Georgia, Texas and Florida — vaccination is optional and mask wearing, while recommended, cannot be enforced. Professors are told they can tell students that they are “strongly encouraged” or “expected” to put on masks, but cannot force students to do so. And teachers cannot ask students who have Covid-like symptoms to leave the classroom.

At least nine states — Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Florida, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Tennessee — have banned or restricted school mask mandates. It is unclear, education officials say, whether all of these prohibitions apply to universities, but public universities depend on state funding.

Since a judge overturned Arkansas’s law banning mask mandates, the UA has required masks indoors where social distancing can’t be maintained. It encourages but does not require vaccinations.

The campus policy on COVID-19 does include some potential allowances for remote working.

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