While it was expected that the return back to campus amid a pandemic would be difficult, students and faculty at The University of Tampa were not prepared for the lack of communication, absence of professors, or the technical difficulties that took place during the first week of classes.
Brianna Scarpulla, junior advertising and public relations major, was scheduled to take COM 222: Media Aesthetics and Creativity with Tanya Langford.
According to Scarpulla, she and her classmates sat in the classroom for approximately 30 minutes on the first day of class, and the professor never showed up. They had not received any emails or course materials before the first day.
“Later in the day, I get an email from the school that states that she is not teaching the course, so they had to find a professor for that class,” said Scarpulla. “They changed the professor for the class three times.”
The professor has since been replaced.
“My new professor has never taught this course before,” said Scarpulla. “She usually teaches art classes.”
Schedule changes and the replacement of professors have extended beyond the communications department since the start of the semester.
Michael Robinson, the director and chair of the accounting department at UT, had to handle all of the schedule conflicts that students in his department were experiencing up until midnight on the drop date.
“That was horrendous,” said Robinson.
Robinson also had an incident in his department where a professor was not prepared to move forward in teaching a class, so he had to find someone at the last minute to take over the class for the semester.
“I think students may have had a problem because the previous faculty member wasn’t communicating and keeping in touch,” said Robinson.
According to Michelle Pelaez, University Registrar, changes in class instructors are not the Registrar’s decision.
“It is up the individual departments to change the instructor at any time,” said Pelaez.
Whenever departments make changes to instructors of a class or course times, it goes through an approval routing to either approve or deny the changes being requested.
Changes are then transferred to the Registrar’s office to publish the changes.
While UT students have had to make some major adjustments with all of the new COVID-19 regulations, faculty have had obstacles of their own that they have had to try to overcome.
According to Kathryn Branch, the chair of the criminology and criminal justice department, the greatest struggle for Branch has been teaching in mass.
“It’s very challenging,” said Branch. “I am just exhausted after the class because you have to put out that much more effort to teach in the mass.”
The delay in communication between faculty and students has also been an obstacle that everyone has had to adapt to.
“We were all getting so many emails related to what was happening on campus and what classrooms were going to look like,” said Branch. “I didn’t send anything out a week before classes because my thought was if something changed, I wanted it all to be in one clear message.”
UT’s campus as a whole has had to overcome some major challenges over the last couple of weeks, but faculty and students are trying to adjust and find a new sense of normalcy.