Virtual classes to resume Friday as some students and faculty have no power

After some students have struggled without power and water for the entirety of the week, the university has announced the return of online instruction for Friday. Sarah Pinkerton | Photographer

By Anne Walker | Staff Writer

Baylor announced just after 3 p.m. Thursday that remote instruction and telework would resume Friday. The decision came less than three hours after President Livingstone sent out an email to the Baylor community acknowledging many students and Waco residents continue to struggle without power and water.

“Nearly half of homes in and around our city are without power, both from lines that have fallen and rolling outages to ensure the stability of the state’s power grid. Some areas are without water due to main lines breaking under the extremely cold temperatures and substations without power,” President Livingstone wrote.

The university acknowledged that some students would not be able to attend online classes due to power outages and associated internet connectivity issues. While Baylor did not require professors to make arrangements for these students, the university said “[f]aculty may provide accommodations for students who still may be without power/Internet.”

Dr. Leslie Harkema, associate professor of spanish and division director of Spanish and Portuguese, noted that while many Spanish students carried on with their course work throughout the week, professors provided and would continue to offer accommodations for students impacted by the weather.

“Flexibility is the name of the game,” Harkema said. “We’re all willing to work with students to make sure that everyone is okay in a place where they can continue with their work … I can’t say what that’s going to look like for every other course, but certainly from my course that was just moving things back at least a week.”

Both Harkema and Dr. Patrick Farmer, professor and chair in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, noted not only students but also many professors and faculty experienced hardships this week.

“This has been a very hard week on all of us at Baylor … students, faculty, staff. My house was without power for two days during the worst of it, then off and on since; we broke up old patio furniture to burn in the fireplace,” Farmer shared via email. “I know of faculty who have yet to get power back.”

The university hopes that holding virtual classes on Friday will limit the need for additional make-up class days. Citing the already “compressed” academic calendar due to COVID-19, Baylor committed to revealing a revised academic calendar in the future.

Harkema said she does not expect the university to extend the academic calendar, but confirmed that the Spanish department was prepared to adjust their course syllabi whether or not the university adds days to the semester.

“I think if [make-up days] were to be added, Spanish courses could adjust. We can certainly use the time, but at the same time, a lot of courses have more or less continued, and we’re willing to adapt and work with students to do what we can to finish the semester,” Harkema said.

Farmer emphasized the need for students and faculty to maintain a broader perspective.

“To be honest, I’m much more concerned about how my students have fared than how my syllabi will be effected. I and my faculty are certainly modifying expectations and due dates, but courses must go on, and students must progress and graduate,” Farmer wrote.

Baylor anticipates proceeding with on-campus instruction on Monday, but warned “some building operations may be impacted due to weather-related issues.”

Several buildings across campus suffered weather-related damage. Impacted buildings include the Bill Daniel Student Center, the Baylor Science Building and various dorms.

Harkema encouraged students to give faculty grace as they adjust their courses to an altered academic schedule.

“I would just say this is a difficult situation on top of what was already a difficult year, so we’re very aware of that. And I just emphasize again … that faculty have been going above and beyond, many in very difficult situations, to keep up” Harkema said.

Farmer said he views the severe weather and pandemic as an opportunity to strengthen the Baylor community.

“I think we all went through worse last spring. At least this time we’re prepared for going online when needed,” Farmer wrote. “So, fingers crossed, we get through this rough weather and do our best, both teaching and learning, we outlive the pandemic and go on to bigger and better lives having made it through together.”