With the updated enforced mask policy at Texas Tech, professors are trying to accommodate their students. Not only have students had to adapt to this new change, but many professors had to make modifications during this time.

Although there are extensive rules in place for students and faculty to abide by many are going the extra mile to ensure safety. 

“I’m trying to be careful to not complicate things. I know this semester is chaotic, not just because of COVID-19, but I think because people are handling it in their own ways,” Nick Bowman, professor of journalism and creative media industries, said.

Bowman has ensured various ways to follow the mask mandated policy, he said. He reminds students by trying to make it a part of the conversation. 

“I just mention it in passing and remind people whenever I send my normal campus reminders out,” Bowman said. “I just try to make it a part of the conversation, so that it’s just a very normal and natural part of the campus culture.” 

Alex Olshansky, instructor of record and research assistant, said he sent an email to all of his students prior to the semester reminding them this would be the policy.

“I opened up the class talking about the COVID-19 guidelines and what to expect, and that masks were going to be enforced,” Olshansky said. “If anyone does not want to wear a mask or refuses to wear one, I am well within my rights to ask them to leave.” 

Sukhbir Singh, assistant professor of vegetable production systems, said he stated the policies on the first day of class to abide by in his classroom throughout the semester. Singh said he reiterates these important guidelines often to help remind students. 

“I have put in the syllabus that students are required to wear a mask,” he said.”Either they are in the class or outside the class, they are required to wear masks,” Singh said.

While Bowman is teaching in class, he said. he is  adamant about wearing his mask and encourages his students to do the same. Not only is he sure to follow the mask policy, but he has made sure to find other ways to stay safe in the classroom as well. 

Before classes resumed this fall, Bowman said he assigned everybody their own designated seat via Blackboard. Whether students choose to come to class in-person or via Zoom, Bowman gives them the opportunity to remain at a safe distance in class.

“I reminded students via email that while we’re doing the class in person, I am willing to live-stream it to where I can’t promise that technology will work, but they don’t need to come to the classroom,” Bowman said. “I am happy to live-stream and record. That seems to have encouraged about 60 to 75 students to not come to class, and that was intentional.” 

With Olshansky teaching a rather large class compared to most classes, he said has resorted to marking the seats on where students can and cannot sit. 

“Each seat is marked accordingly for students to distance. We also have signs on the door and we are trying to get students to go out the right side of the theatre as the next class is coming in on the left side,” Olshansky said. 

While Singh is lecturing during his class time, he said he has found other ways to help students remain their distance from each other. Not only is he sure to wear a face covering, but he has also designed a seating chart for students to maintain their distance.

“Students are wearing masks in my class and I am wearing a face shield while delivering the lecture. After the lecture, I remove the shield and if students are approaching me I make sure that their masks are on, and I also wear a mask when I communicate with them,” Singh said. “Of course all the students have access to cleaning wipes and sanitizers for their cleanliness. Some students are using the wipes to clean their seats before exiting the class as well.”

Bowman mentioned he realizes this semester is hard, so he tries to make things easier for the students as much as possible. He said he knows and understands students want to be here on campus just as much as everyone else does. Bowman is trying to be super helpful by being an aid to students.

“I told students they do not need to keep me posted. I am not taking attendance, I am teaching a class,” Bowman said. “Rather than putting in rules and policies that go above and beyond the university protocols, it’s just been a matter of reinforcing what students have already heard and then actively finding ways to help them follow those guidelines.”

To help accommodate his students, Olshansky said he  thought it would be a good idea to host Zoom calls for students who are unable to attend class due to COVID-19 circumstances.

“I wasn’t sure if we should start using Zoom calls or not, but I got the OK from Dr. (Todd) Chambers so a few classes in we started doing Zoom sessions for the students who can’t make it,” Olshansky said.

With these trying times in full effect, Singh said he is consistently trying to help his students in any way he can. If any of his students possibly test positive for COVID-19, he is ensuring they successful in his class by giving them the correct materials. He wants to help students by giving them options and also provide with extra help and assistance if they may need it.

“I am accommodating to my students by offering them options. I am providing them all of the lecture materials and if they need to meet me over Zoom, then I am giving them that option as well,” Singh said.

Some of Olshanky’s biggest guidelines this semester is for students to keep their masks on. He understands the class is very big so keeping their masks on, especially while talking, is very essential Olshansky said. 

Keeping the mask on in class is not only essential for oneself, but for others he said.

“I think wearing a mask is vital because we’ve already had many students who have tested positive,” Olshansky said. 

The biggest advice Bowman could give to his fellow colleagues and other professors on campus is to check down, he said. These are trying times for everyone on campus, it’s easy for many students and faculty to lose perspective. Bowman’s biggest concern is to make sure students have the ability to ask questions. 

“The advice I’ve given my colleagues is to give your students space to ask questions. Give them space to be wrong,” Bowman said. “You have to be more available now than you used to be. Students are going to have questions and they are meaningful, relevant, and important questions. We’re all in a massive learning event together. I want to look back on 2020, and I want to be able to say I helped.”

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