Jeremy Fischer, who until yesterday was full professor of philosophy at the University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH), resigned his post to protest his university’s COVID-19 policies for the next term.
Writing to his university president, provost, university dean and department head, he said:
We know what it takes to protect the health of the community and most likely save lives, and we have the capacity to do it; what is missing is the collective will to do it. And I find myself obliged to consider whether my continued relationship with UAH could make me complicit in a moral atrocity.
Therefore, I have decided to resign from my post as Associate Professor of Philosophy, with immediate effect.
Dr Fischer had described the UAH’s pandemic plans last month in a guest article here, “Raising the Alarm: COVID Risks 2021-2022 at Unprotected Colleges and Universities” and launched a petition to urge the University of Alabama system to strengthen its COVID-19 security protocols. In this previous post he wrote about the implications for his University of Alabama SB 267, promulgated on May 24e this year, which bans state-funded schools from requiring students to be vaccinated against COVID.
While the UAH has reformed some of the policies discussed in that previous article and has now implemented an interior mask mandate, * Dr Fischer wrote, in an email:
I remain concerned about (1) my old institution’s lack of a vaccination mandate (and its unreported, but likely low student vaccination rate), (2) the lack of re-entry COVID testing at the start of the semester, and ( 3) the lack of regular COVID tests of the unvaccinated throughout the semester; as well as (4) his refusal to implement social distancing indoors in accordance with CDC recommendations for universities where not everyone is fully immunized, and also (5) his refusal to move a substantial number of classes, especially large lecture classes, online, even when the instructor would prefer such a transfer.
Dr Fischer, who specializes in moral psychology, ethics and emotions, raised concerns about professors’ complicity in a public health crisis, asked whether instructors at unprotected institutions are morally allowed to “risk public health in order to convene philosophy classes,” and suggested that professors might consider resigning in protest.
Yesterday, that’s exactly what he did. He announced his resignation on Twitter. His resignation letter is reposted below in its entirety:
You can view the UAH’s current COVID policies here.
In response to follow-up questions, he emailed:
Perhaps you could ask sympathetic readers to support the email campaign that I urged. People can email the leadership of my old institution, UAH, and the UA system in general, and urge them to adopt the COVID-sensitive policy of our neighboring university, Alabama A&M: among other things, (1) move the online classes for the first two weeks of the semester; and (2) enforce weekly random sample (“sentinel”) testing of unvaccinated people thereafter. We also call for the adoption of (3) universal social distancing mandates that comply with CDC Recommendations for higher education institutions where not everyone is fully immunized.
Here are some key decision makers (and their public email addresses):
Darren Dawson, President, [email protected]
Robert (Bob) Lindquist, Acting President and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, [email protected]
Kristi Motter, Vice President of Student Affairs, [email protected]
Finis Saint-Jean IV, chancellor, [email protected]
The members of the board of directors, [email protected]
He also encouraged professors, especially senior professors, to form “local ad hoc committees on COVID policies” on their own campuses with their colleagues and to contact university unions, Senate faculty committees and administrations. schools to express their concerns. He warned: “what is happening in the Great South could well happen soon in a city near you! “
* The original version of this article did not mention this UAH policy update.