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AAUP and AFT Urge Education Department to Rescind Proposed Rules for Distance Education

The AAUP and the American Federation of Teachers have submitted joint comments urging the Department of Education to rescind proposed rules for distance education. The comments emphasize that the rules would weaken the interaction between students and faculty members—the key relationship in higher education—and would allow increased outsourcing of core educational responsibilities.

The joint comments read in part:

On behalf of the 1.7 million members of the American Federation of Teachers and the members of the American Association of University Professors, including more than 270,000 faculty and staff in higher education, we urge the Department of Education—in this time of unprecedented educational and societal upheaval—to put the needs of our nation’s college students before the needs of distance education opportunists. Specifically, we are asking that you rescind this proposed rule in order to maintain existing rules protecting the role of faculty and student interaction and outsourcing. The Education Department has a responsibility to avoid making changes to distance education that would open the door to education without teachers, leaving students entirely reliant on software, apps, games and prerecorded video.

The department is attempting to write new rules on a wide range of topics all at once, appointing negotiators who appeared to have been selected not for their subject-matter expertise but for their ties to the for-profit college industry, disregarding consensus proposals that were reached, and on a deeply truncated timeline—in the middle of a global pandemic—for commenting on issues that strike at the core of what a college education is. The COVID-19 pandemic has tested the limits of distance education. Via these tests, it is clearer than ever that interaction between students and faculty is the heart of education, and that when students select an institution in which to invest their time and money, they expect an ongoing relationship with that institution, and not a third-party contractor....

The Department of Education must not gut the meaning of college. The interaction of faculty and students is the most important piece of a college education, and the department should not weaken safeguards regarding this interaction as it does in these proposed rules.

Read the full comments.

Publication Date: 
Tuesday, May 5, 2020