Students clustered on The Strip Monday. Now UA is offering leeway on face-to-face instruction

After a massive group of students celebrated Alabama’s 18th national title on Monday night, university administrators are opening the semester with some caution.


CW / Carson Redwine

UA Provost James Dalton announced a remote learning option for the first two weeks of the semester after Monday night’s championship celebration was deemed a possible superspreader event by Alabama health officials.

Thousands of UA fans and students flooded The Strip after the Crimson Tide’s win despite discouragement from the University and the City of Tuscaloosa. 

After Monday night’s events, United Campus Workers (UCW), a labor union representing UA employees, emailed Dalton and UA President Stuart Bell on Tuesday to demand a remote learning option. 

Dalton announced Tuesday evening that instructors teaching in-person or hybrid courses are allowed to conduct classes remotely until Jan. 22, but they may elect to operate solely in person with attendance penalties in place. 

The University said in a statement on Tuesday that the spread of the virus is “almost nonexistent” in classrooms.

In its most recent meeting, Faculty Senate President Rona Donahoe reported that 90% of COVID cases were contracted off campus. 

Bell later said the gatherings on The Strip “underscore[d] the need for continued vigilance and caution by every member of our community.” 

The UCW statement requested that the University provide evidence via its sentinel testing program that the campus has maintained its December 2020 background positivity rate. The union also called for hazard pay for employees who routinely come into close contact with students. 

The University has met UCW’s request for a remote learning option, but has not responded to its other demands. 

In what UCW calls an “inadequate” response, they said the current plan lacks long-term solutions.  

UCW said that Monday night’s crowds “suggest that it is inevitable last night’s celebrations could lead to a local spike in new COVID-19 cases both within the City of Tuscaloosa and on our campus” 

The statement was signed by Alexa Tullett, an assistant professor of social psychology and UCW member. 

“Having the in-person instruction be optional for two weeks is better than nothing, but it also does not guarantee people’s safety during those two weeks,” Tullett said. “And it certainly does not guarantee their safety after those two weeks. It’s sort of naive to think that the problem will be gone in a period of two weeks. That’s just not how this pandemic progresses.” 

Prior to Monday, the University planned to expand in-person courses this semester, but banned in-person student activities for the first two weeks of classes. 

The current moratorium on in-person student events is set to expire in two weeks. UA Vice President for Student Life Myron Pope said his team will monitor the spread of cases in the coming weeks to determine whether an extension of the moratorium is necessary.