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ASU professor forced students to break COVID-19 restrictions

September 3, 2020 GMT

PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona State University professor who forced his students to sit in the first two rows of his classroom, violating the school’s coronavirus guidelines, will allow students to choose their own seats in the future after the incident was posted about on social media.

A post on the social networking site Reddit from Tuesday said an ASU professor forced all in-person students to move to the first two rows in class. The post, which was upvoted more than 650 times, was accompanied by a photo of a man addressing at least nine people sitting in every other seat in the first two rows of a classroom.

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People commented that professor Thomas Seager forced students in his engineering business practices course to move closer to the front even though some expressed discomfort doing so.

On Thursday, the university’s assistant vice president for media relations, Jay Thorne, acknowledged the post’s allegations.

“We have since spoken to Professor Seager, strongly reiterating the need to allow all individuals to self-select their spacing, observing six-feet of physical distancing to feel safer in their learning environments given current circumstances,” Throne said in an email. “Dr. Seager is now aligned with these expectations and will communicate his adherence to them with students for future classes.”

Seager declined to comment and referred The Associated Press to Thorne.

In April, an article Seager co-wrote and published on Medium about the coronavirus was deleted for violating the site’s guidelines for publishing factually incorrect medical information, according to a follow-up post the professor wrote.

The university has implemented restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic that require face coverings at all times, limited classroom capacities, social distance guidelines and daily health checks.

ASU reported on Monday that its student body had 775 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, the Arizona Republic reported. Currently, 323 students are in isolation on the Tempe campus.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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AP journalist Avery Yang contributed to this report.