Arizona State University professor mired in controversy for allegedly violating COVID-19 guidelines

An Arizona State University professor who forced his students to sit in the first two rows of his classroom, violating the school’s coronavirus guidelines, will allow students to choose their own seats in the future after the incident was posted about on social media. 

A post on the social networking site Reddit from Sept. 1 said an ASU professor forced all in-person students to move to the first two rows in class. The post, which was upvoted more than 650 times, was accompanied by a photo of a man addressing at least nine people sitting in every other seat in the first two rows of a classroom. 

People commented that professor Thomas Seager forced students in his engineering business practices course to move closer to the front even though some expressed discomfort doing so.

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On Sept. 3, the university’s assistant vice president for media relations, Jay Thorne, acknowledged the post’s allegations.

“We have since spoken to Professor Seager, strongly reiterating the need to allow all individuals to self-select their spacing, observing six-feet of physical distancing to feel safer in their learning environments given current circumstances,” Throne said in an email. “Dr. Seager is now aligned with these expectations and will communicate his adherence to them with students for future classes.”

Seager declined to comment and referred The Associated Press to Thorne. 

In April, an article Seager co-wrote and published on Medium about the coronavirus was deleted for violating the site’s guidelines for publishing factually incorrect medical information, according to a follow-up post the professor wrote.

The university has implemented restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic that require face coverings at all times, limited classroom capacities, social distance guidelines and daily health checks. 

ASU reported on Sept. 3 that 983 students and staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

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.

In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Monitor your health daily

MAP: Worldwide interactive Coronavirus case data

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CDC: How coronavirus spreads, symptoms, prevention, treatment, FAQ

Arizona COVID-19 resources, FAQ:

On, you'll find extensive coverage about COVID-19, including breaking news from around the country, exclusive interviews with health officials, and informative content from a variety of public health resources.


Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These, of course, are similar to the common cold and flu. 

Expect a common cold to start out with a sore or scratchy throat, cough, runny and/or stuffy nose. Flu symptoms are more intense and usually come on suddenly, and can include a high fever. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart conditions.

RELATED: Is it the flu, a cold or COVID-19? Different viruses present similar symptoms

Right now there's one big difference between flu and coronavirus: A vaccine exists to help prevent the flu and it's not too late to get it. It won't protect you from catching the coronavirus, but may put you in a better position to fight it.

To protect yourself, wash your hands well and often, keep them away from your face, and avoid crowds and standing close to people.

And if you do find yourself showing any of these flu or coronavirus symptoms - don't go straight to your doctor's office. That just risks making more people sick, officials urge. Call ahead, and ask if you need to be seen and where.