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Auburn begins new semester as move to oppose in-person classes sputters out

Auburn University’s decision to continue in-person learning for the spring semester received affirmation on Tuesday when the school’s faculty failed to take action on a no-confidence vote on Provost Bill Hardgrave.

Faculty member Michael Stern, a professor of economics, had moved for the vote to express his own displeasure at the university’s decision to return to in-person classes.

As provost, Hardgrave serves as the chief academic officer for the institution.

Auburn’s return-to-school plan had been praised by medical professionals, including by White House health official Dr. Deborah Birx during her September visit to the campus.

Understanding the importance of on-campus learning, Auburn University President Jay Gogue stated during a December interview with the Opelika-Auburn News that his administration will continue consulting with the medical community as part of its academic process.

“Going into the spring term, I think the hope would be that we could do more face-to-face and in-person than we did in the fall,” he explained. “I have said throughout that totally depends on the virus, totally depends on where we are. We are not going to put people in harm’s way to do that. I think Bill [Hardgrave] felt an obligation to get it back to as normal as possible as students and families thought about the spring term.”

Earlier this week, 40 university professors signed onto a statement denouncing the vote. They stated their belief that “a no-confidence vote is inappropriate and will be damaging to our students, our faculty, and our university.”

As many as 1,300 people took part in the virtual meeting, according to participants.

Rules of order took precedent, and the issue died when more than 67% of the participants objected to consideration of Stern’s motion.

Classes for Auburn students began on Monday.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia