Graduate students demand transparency!
To whom this may concern,
Graduate students in the Public Administration (MPA) program, under the Department of Health, Community, and Policy, demand action on changing COVID-19 protocols for the Spring 2022 semester. According to department officials, all courses will be 100% in-person with no virtual options available. Students who are not able to attend in-person courses are in danger of losing credit hours, certificates, and university hours. Graduate students within the MPA program were not properly notified of these changes as of the Fall 2021 semester. Due to the pandemic, graduate students relocated outside of San Antonio to continue their education in a safe environment and for employment purposes. Graduate students have altered their employment schedules to better fit their online course load and will not be able to adapt in time for the Spring 2022 semester. Lastly, due to the continuing health challenges of COVID-19, graduate students need accessibility in case of sickness of themselves or household members. The mental, emotional, and physical health of students should be at the utmost priority of UTSA staff and faculty.
Graduate Public Administration students demand the following:
· Transparency from the Department of Health, Community, and Policy, The University of Texas at San Antonio’s PROVOST, and U.T. System officials concerning the changing landscape of the Spring 2022 semester
· An open forum to discuss the following:
o The virtual to in-person transition
o Impact on students who are no longer able to physically be in their classes due to employment, personal matters, or relocation
o How to manage the transition between virtual to in-person courses
o How to effectively transfer from the UTSA MPA program to other programs or universities
The unanticipated and abrupt transition to a fully-virtual modality at the onset of COVID-19 had negative impacts on students, faculty, and staff. UTSA had no choice but to take swift action to adapt alongside emerging public health guidance. However, as we begin to emerge from this crisis, UTSA leadership does have a choice in the course modalities offered during this transition. Current MPA students have completed as many as three full semesters (including summer) in a fully-virtual environment and have altered their lives accordingly. An abrupt transition to a 100% in-person modality will be detrimental to the education and success of graduate students who have dedicated time and money to this program.
The Department of Public Administration has previously acknowledged the MPA student body is diverse and includes many in-service professionals and nontraditional students -- a population that is best served by flexible course schedules and modalities. UTSA has vastly improved flexibility in these areas during this period of forced innovation. To roll back these changes without due consideration of the impact it will have on students would be an injustice not only to the students, but to the faculty and staff who have invested considerable time and effort into adapting courses for virtual and hybrid modalities. An abrupt transition to 100% in-person will also further complicate the lives of students who have used a year or more of their GI benefits on a program they now cannot complete due to the reduced flexibility in course modality offerings.
To the majority of military-affiliated students, the benefits they earned during their personal service or parents and spouses service, have an expiration date. To restart their MPA at a new university or to take semesters off until they are better equipped to return to school, is out of the question as they risk the expiration of their benefits before their ability to obtain their degree. This could lead to months upon months of benefits disappearing - months of education entitlement that students earned during their service to our country, and to some students, entitlement they have due to their parents' sacrifice for our country’s freedom. To many students, their motivation for enlisting was to someday be able to provide themselves with an education that they otherwise would not afford. The potential of their benefits expiring damages their future and defeats the purpose of having the ability to earn these benefits in the first place.
While many feared the transition to virtual learning would create barriers for students, research has shown that, in a post-pandemic landscape, a majority of students want the option to take some fully-online courses in the future and most are interested in course modalities that offer a combination of in-person and online instruction.1
If graduate students are not able to compromise with the university, many will have no choice but to drop courses, formally withdraw from the program, or transfer elsewhere. The undersigned graduate students in the MPA program demand transparency and communication from the department, college, university, and U.T. System. Providing an environment that fosters positive educational standards is essential to our program's success.