Georgia College Officials, Professors Battle over Online Classes

Illustration by Brittney Phan (State Affairs)

Oct 18, 2021
Key Points
  • Georgia professors risk being fired or suspended for moving classes online amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • New discipline policy came as Georgia grappled with high COVID-19 case numbers due to the Delta variant.
  • State officials defend in-person class policy by citing lower academic performance for students in online classes.

A battle has broken out between college officials and some professors in Georgia over online classes held during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unable to require masks in class, some professors have defied orders to keep their courses in person for the 2021 fall semester by moving them online without approval from college heads – at times at the cost of their jobs.

Meanwhile, top university administrators say it’s time for normal campus life to return as COVID-19 cases fall after a summer spike, while many students push to get the full experience their tuition paid for following months of virtual learning at the pandemic’s start last year.

In this three-part story, State Affairs spoke with several professors who have run afoul of recent state policy on online college classes and dug into the background of that policy in open-records requests.

Our story

Part I: Professors Under Fire

James Schiffman doesn’t regret moving one of his classes online this semester, despite the trouble he now finds himself in with his school’s administration.

Part II: Discipline Policy Takes Shape

Schiffman is among a handful of Georgia professors who have sought to move their classes online this semester, going against orders not to do so. Some of those professors have resigned recently or been fired.

Part III: Getting Back to Normal

Amid criticism, university system officials have been battered both ways with complaints from Georgia residents who want classroom mask mandates on the one hand, and on the other from those who staunchly opposed any mandates.