Hybrid/Online Options for UIUC Students and Faculty Spring 2022

Hybrid/Online Options for UIUC Students and Faculty Spring 2022

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Why this petition matters

Due to the increasing surge of the COVID variant, Omicron, both fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people are being threatened with this new strand of COVID, resulting in a spike of cases across the state. A fair amount of us, UIUC students, are concerned about returning to full capacity in-person lectures after seeing the cases increasing exponentially every day. Even with UIUC's COVID protocols and a week of online instructions, these precautions aren't enough to battle against the dangerously contagious variant. The New York Times has reported a spike of approximately 900 cases over the last 7 days in Illinois. Not to mention, other states like New York have already broken their highest record in COVID cases. With Illinois being placed as the fifth state having the most COVID cases, it is inevitable that the state will soon explode with extreme numbers post holiday season.

Many universities, including UIUC, have decided to delay in person instructions. However, these decisions were made before the recent spike of cases. These delays only accounted for previous COVID cases, but not the current. It is astounding that UIUC and other universities have not yet implanted hybrid model classes to ensure students and faculties' safety. We do not have to wait for other universities to announce their response to COVID, we can be the first to ensure a safe, comfortable, yet flexible, learning environment for the students.

UIUC has already implemented hybrid/online options in parts of the school, for instance CS124, in the Grainger College of Engineering. Although this introductory Computer Science course entered fully online in Fall 2021, over 84% of 1200+ students earned an A grade. UIUC being a top and experienced university could provide a comfortable virtual learning environment for students to strive in. It's time for all schools within UIUC to adopt hybrid/online options for all students.

By not offering an online option to the Illini family, this robs the safeties of students and faculties worried about the pandemic, which is devastating, or even life threatening, for a lot of families. Remember that we are not asking to transition fully online, as we understand a great number of faculties and students wish to return in person. Those who wish to do so should have the freedom to. However, forcing people into danger environments is undeniably wrong. Everyone should have the right to feel safe and continue progressing into their future. We ask that the university allows faculty and staff to offer flexibility to choose between the options for students to continue progressing their degrees without having to compromise on their health and safety.

Below is a list of reasonable concerns we have regarding the return to campus at the moment: 

1. Inability to practice COVID protocols due to filled lecture halls and classrooms.

2. Students not following COVID prevention protocol and/or faculties not strictly enforcing it. With personal experiences from Fall 2021, there are many students who ignore COVID protocols on campus, and a lack of faculty enforcing COVID protocols . For instance, students not wearing masks in mask required environments and campus buildings missing SHIELD staffs for checking building accesses.

3. Lack of instructions for students medically unable to attend in-person classes due to the pandemic. Currently, there are no clear and effective instructions for positive tested students. This may result in negatively affecting many students' academic performance.

4. Faculty, staff, students, and their family members who are at higher risk of death from COVID.

5. No online option for international students unable to return due to country policies or simply feeling uncomfortable due to the dangers of the contagious Omicron variant.

6. Not every student at UIUC is eligible for a booster shot.

Those who may argue that Omicron is "just a cold" due to its low mortality rate and mild symptoms must remember that COVID isn't "just a cold." COVID is a serious infection that has already taken countless lives and caused life-long health problems for many. With the new variant being especially contagious despite having mild symptoms, it should not be overlooked that this "cold" will continue to take lives of those at higher risks. Death numbers shouldn't be data for assessing an individual's carefulness towards COVID, but a reminder that COVID is still a problem. As a community, it is best that we remind ourselves to fully prepare for the new variant to minimize potential damages.

We understand the efforts and time needed for such an option to be provided, however, this is a special time. Right now, students and concerned faculties are in need of this freedom. We ask that UIUC provide a hybrid/online model for Spring 2022.

1,040 have signed. Let’s get to 1,500!