While Westminster College students were on summer break, art professors carefully planned the Fall semester as the school announced its plan for in-person classes.
As Westminster began the semester, many professors anxiously waited to see the outcome of their planning. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many art professors reconfigured class structures to suit their students and subjects.
David Baddley, professor of art and photography, is teaching his classes face-to-face with a limited class size. He said it’s worked out better than he expected.
“This semester, I’ve tried to go back to as much of the face-to-face model as much as possible, but also have a backup plan,” Baddley said. “If a student is sick, we’ve got a separate thing that they can do online.”
Returning to in-person instruction has proved interesting for Baddley, as he said he’s made numerous changes to his classroom for student health and safety.
“All the tables in the [photography seminar] room were configured in a conference style,” Baddley said. “Now, this room has been limited to three students, plus an instructor — So we don’t even use it.”
Adding to the health measure, Baddley said the workspaces in the photography lab are spaced to allow more space between students.
Students are required to wear masks at all times, and Baddley said he’s seen high levels of compliance with the new rules. However, they may only work in the lab when a monitor is there to provide oversight and ensure rules are followed.
Junior art major Meau Brinley said they feel art professors are taking measures to make sure students are safe.
“I never see them without a mask,” Brinley said. “They are always mindful of space and keeping things clean.”
While some professors opted for in-person classes, others chose to take it online.
Hikmet Loe, professor of art history at Westminster, moved all of her classes online to an asynchronous format. That’s because Loe said art history lends itself well to the online format.
“Lectures and discussions are image-based, and today’s technologies are much more robust in allowing for multiple ways to interact with students,” Loe said.
Despite the ease, she said she had a few concerns when she first began teaching her classes remotely this semester.
“The greatest concern I had going into the Fall semester, being 100% remote, was that students wouldn’t show up online, or wouldn’t engage given we’re together,” Loe said in an email to The Forum. “But the opposite has been true. Students engage in multiple ways during each class session.”
For those in person, professors say their concerns surround students prioritizing the safety of those around them.
“My biggest anxiety was being able to have a good discussion with a mask on,” said Baddley, who teaches art at Westminster. “On that first day of class, I was so terrified that people wouldn’t be able to hear me or [it would] inhibit me or my students.”
However, Baddley said that feeling quickly dissipated.
“Two minutes in and that feeling disappeared,” Baddley said.
Although this semester has its challenges, many art professors said they are excited to teach again.
Baddley said his excitement for this semester has not changed from that of previous years.
“The most exciting thing about teaching is watching students get excited about what they’re making,” Baddley said. “I love art and seeing what students make.”
Despite the pandemic, Loe said that she continues to have high expectations to continue teaching art history throughout the Fall.
“My expectation for this Fall is to see that my students remain whole, to the extent that is possible, given the stress and anxiety presented during this pandemic,” Loe said. “I’m able to present the history of art — and the necessity of art — to students as one way they can keep themselves grounded.”