UArizona faculty, staff members want remote teaching option amid COVID-19 surge

As the omicron-fueled COVID-19 surge continues in Arizona, instructors at the University of Arizona have sent an open letter to the university's provost, saying they want online teaching as an option.

The letter is sent ahead of the university's spring semester, which is set to start on Jan. 12, and students are coming back from all across the world. Meanwhile, Arizona is now ranked second in the nation in COVID-19 deaths per capita.

Tenured faculty, instructors signed letter, but some prefer in-person learning

One hundred and twenty-five tenured faculty and instructors signed off on the letter, saying they are not happy to return to campus with a COVID-19 surge in tow. The teachers cite a lack of N95 mask distribution, weak enforcement of mask requirements during the fall semester, and an overwhelmed healthcare system.

The letter also states that instructors must use their discretion to prevent the spread of disease by teaching online, and if they are disciplined for that, it is a breach of academic freedom.

"That was a very persuasive argument -- more, in fact, than I had anticipated -- to about 150 of my colleagues and many more instructors," said UArizona Associate Professor Leila Hudson. She is leading those instructors and accepting more signatures.

While omicron has been described as a ‘mild’ variant, Hudson says UArizona leadership is not qualified to predict how students and staff react to the virus.

"We can't have a mildly symptomatic, asymptomatic people from all over the country and from all over the globe," said Hudson. "I should add the university is a global mixing bowl."

Some faculty members, like Jennifer Buan, are all for in-person learning.

"Students need interaction, need inspirations between each other," said Buan. "A classroom environment is much better than online."

International student speaks out

Erick Liu, a student from China, is ready to learn on campus.

"It's my first time to get a college course in the U.S.," said Liu. "We finished our freshman year on the internet in China, so this is pretty exciting."

This story was reported on from Phoenix

Tune in to FOX 10 Phoenix for the latest news

Get the latest coronavirus news by downloading the FOX 10 News App. Our promise is that our alerts are there to inform you - not scare you.

COVID-19 symptoms

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

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

Other Coronavirus in Arizona Stories

COVID-19 resources

CDC Website for COVID-19 (In Spanish/En Español)

AZDHS Website for COVID-19 (In Spanish/En Español)