Students have questioned why a Stage Two economics class is being offered in-person while most teaching remains online.
Earlier this year, the University Executive Committee (UEC) decided that teaching in the first half of Semester One would be primarily online due to COVID-19 cases rising rapidly. But shortly after this announcement, ECON201 students were told their lectures and tutorial would be held on-campus as well as being live-streamed on Zoom.
Paul*, a student taking the class, told Craccum that they have not been given any reason for why the class is being offered in person. “The class is just slides, there are no laboratories or physical things that you should need to be on campus for.” They say that there’s minimal interaction with the students in the class, or on Zoom. “It’s like watching a recorded lecture.”
The University’s website states that faculties can approve exceptions for on-campus teaching for practical components, including “tutorials, workshops, labs, and studios, where a case can be made that this will achieve the best pedagogical outcome.”
The course Professor, Ananish Chaudhuri told Craccum that he received approval from the Faculty of Business and Economics Business Continuity Planning Committee. “I have provided my reasons to those in charge and have received permission to teach on campus.” However, the Professor declined to disclose what reasons he provided for why the course should be taught in person. The Professor added that students are able to do all relevant work remotely without coming to campus.
While Paul says they prefer learning on campus, they don’t believe that granting an exemption for this course was the right call. “I agree that the experience in-person is obviously much better, and it would be great if we could do that safely. But there are thousands and thousands of cases a day, and it just doesn’t seem necessary.”
Those taking the course have raised concerns about whether the Professor’s personal views may have influenced the decision. The Economics professor has been highly critical of the Government’s COVID-19 response and has shown support for anti-mandate protestors online. He is a frequent contributor to a right-wing blog that describes itself as “Your One Source of Truth.” In one of his recent articles, he complained about the “discrimination” and “demonisation” of the Parliament grounds occupants. His Twitter activity also reflects similar anti-mandate views. He posted, “The ones who stood up were the ones who had been pushed to the brink.”
The University confirmed to Craccum that the Professor is teaching within the University’s Covid-19 protocols and says the course can be done remotely for students who do not wish to come in. “Attendance is typically 25 or less. So there are no social distancing issues.” The University and the faculty have not responded to Craccum regarding why ECON201 was granted permission to be taught on campus or if they support Professor Chaudhuri’s views on the anti-mandate protests.
Paul says they would like some clarification around the faculty’s criteria for making this decision, as the course doesn’t have any practical components. “I don’t blame the lecturer entirely, but it’s in my view if there’s a policy for exemptions then there should be grounds and what those are.”
*Last name withheld to protect student’s privacy.