“Corrections must be made”
University of Northern Iowa Campus (Kevin C. O’Kane)
The dozen students at the University of Northern Iowa left without an instructor after administrators stripped him of his in-person teaching duties for making them wear masks continued to meet at the scheduled class time, and finalized a joint statement on Tuesday in support of their lost teacher.
The statement – signed by UNI biology professor Steve O’Kane’s “students of plant systematics” – accused UNI of punishing students in its reprimand of O’Kane and called on administrators to “take action to cancel the unfair penalties inflicted on Dr O’Kane and made him his students.
“The university’s decision to remove Professor O’Kane has only punished the students in his class who find themselves without a teacher and without a plan for how this course will unfold,” the statement said, the students said. said he sent on Tuesday afternoon to directors like UNI President Mark Nook. “Unfortunately, this measure taken by the university was not based on science and did not take into consideration the serious consequences it would have on the students in its class.”
Students without a teacher were joined in class on Tuesday by some leaders of the UNI student government, who will consider their own resolution on Wednesday condemning O’Kane’s academic discipline for telling his students they must wear masks or lose laboratory points – despite the board. directives preventing public universities in Iowa from imposing mask, vaccine or distancing warrants.
“I listened to the students in his Plant Systematics class talk about the distress this caused them, the uncertainty they faced regarding their credits and their degree, and the fact that the university did not have them. yet provided a clear path forward. UNI Student Government President Samantha Bennett told The Gazette. “These are students in a 4000 level course, now left without an instructor, and told themselves their class would not be meeting until further notice.”
She noted that the students had already done a large amount of work that now appears not to be the case – in a time of heightened anxiety and concerns about mental health.
“Corrections need to be made by the (Board of Regents) and UNI to ensure that those hard-working students, who want nothing more than to get the education they paid for and promised, are not the ones who are punished, ”she said. “As it stands now, they certainly are – and it is unacceptable to me that in an era already marked by stress, these students are also forced to face this unfortunate situation.”
In addition to stripping O’Kane of his in-person teaching duties, the university is demanding that he complete the faculty “responsibilities” training by November 30; give him a “need for improvement” performance evaluation, making him ineligible for merit pay; and threatening dismissal if he does not comply with “university and board policies” in the future.
Although the college dean’s September 29 discipline letter tells O’Kane, “I will designate another faculty member to teach your course in person,” the students told The Gazette. No one at UNI has the level of expertise that O’Kane has on the subject.
And they said on Tuesday that they had not heard from a replacement professor.
“I can assure you that they will find a solution for the students,” Brian Yarahmadi, one of O’Kane’s students, told The Gazette. “They absolutely have to find a solution because they assured us that we were going to graduate without any problem.”
But the solution might involve some sort of independent study, according to Yarahmadi, who said he and his classmates haven’t been and really aren’t able to continue working on the course material without a teacher.
“We haven’t talked about the course material, just because we really don’t know where we would be, in terms of the course right now,” he said.
UNI officials did not respond to The Gazette’s questions on Tuesday about the class statement.
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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