UIC administrators respond to students’ questions about campus COVID-19 response

UIC administrators answered students’ questions about UIC’s response to COVID-19 during a Virtual Town Hall April 7.

The hour-long town hall, which was held in collaboration with Undergraduate Student Government, took place via a Zoom webinar. Panelists included UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis; Susan Poser, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs; Dr. Robert Barish, vice chancellor for health affairs, and Rex Tolliver, vice chancellor for student affairs.

“I hope that everybody is adjusting to this new situation. I’m trying to do the same thing as well,” Amiridis said. “Frankly, there are times that I don’t like it at all, as you don’t. Having said this, it’s absolutely necessary to follow the recommendations of the experts in order to protect ourselves and all those who, for various reasons, are more vulnerable to this disease than others.
“The situation that we are facing is different than anything we have experienced before.  It makes no difference if you’re a boomer, a Zoomer, or anything in between.”

Amiridis praised the UIC community for its flexibility during an abrupt change to the semester as classes moved online due to COVID-19.

“Everybody saw the true spirit of innovation as we changed pretty much everything that we do in just a period of a few days,” he said. “And I’m very proud of this because it shows in practice how determined our community is to support each other. It’s a great example of what a phrase that we hear a lot these days, ‘We are all this together,’ really means for UIC.”

Poser addressed questions related to changes to the spring undergraduate grading policy. Students can choose to elect a credit/no credit option through April 29. Under the revised policy, no student will receive a D or F on their transcript for spring 2020.

“My goal through all of this has been continuity of your education,” she said. “We tried to be very responsive and give you a choice as to whether you want to take your grades as you would have, had nothing happened, or whether you wanted to go credit, no credit.”

A separate grading policy for spring semester for graduate students also was announced Tuesday.

Summer session and orientation will be moved online, Poser said. Student fees for summer session will be reduced to $18 per credit hour to cover the library and IT fees, she said.

“We just don’t anticipate that we will be able to have regular live classes in June and July, and we made that call so everyone could plan for it,” Poser said.

UIC also has supported students with the change to remote learning by shipping more than 100 laptops to students on loan for the semester, as well as 200 Wi-Fi hotspots for students who do not have reliable internet service at home, she said.

Barish shared information on COVID-19 and the response at UI Health. As of Tuesday, more than 50 patients at the hospital had tested positive for COVID-19, with 19 more suspected cases, he said. Nearly 200 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 have left the hospital, he said.

“There’s hope for people who turn positive,” he said. “Not everybody with the disease ends up in the hospital or doesn’t get discharged.”

UI Health has set up a triage tent with negative airflow to protect patients and providers outside the hospital; opened a Mile Square drive-thru clinic for COVID-19 testing; opened a COVID-19 clinic in Pilsen specializing in patients who may be positive, and is providing emotional support for staff members, Barish said. UIC also is participating in clinical trials for COVID-19 treatments.

Students asked about confirmed cases of COVID-19 in campus residence halls, and Tolliver said two students have tested positive and have been isolated in a residence hall that wasn’t in use and are being cared for by staff members.

“I can assure you that the students who are in quarantine are doing very well,” he said. “We have an extensive protocol for suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases in the residence halls for the students that are remaining.”

Tolliver shared ways UIC Student Affairs is supporting students, including ensuring that student employees who no longer have jobs because of closures to campus facilities will continue to be paid throughout the semester.

Students who cannot make their tuition payment plans will not be charged any penalties or fees.

“If you’re having issues making payments, don’t worry about it right now. You’re not going to be penalized. It will be OK,” he said.

About 2,000 students have moved out of campus residence halls, and they will receive a pro-rated adjustment for housing and dining services fees from the day they moved out through the end of the semester, Tolliver said.

“We are here for you, so anything you’re still dealing with, please reach out so we can help you,” he said.

Amiridis said tuition would not be refunded because UIC faculty members continue to teach all courses remotely. However, students will receive a 44% adjustment to the student service fee, which pays for some services that are currently not available.

Although in-person commencement ceremonies in May have been postponed due to COVID-19, virtual graduation experiences are in the works and an in-person event will be scheduled at a later date.

“All of us really want to see you and your family celebrate your success,” Amiridis said. “What I cannot answer right now is when. It depends on how the situation will develop, and right now we are examining several options.”

Students have asked what to expect for fall 2020, but Poser said it’s just too early to tell.

“We don’t have an answer yet — whether we will be fully live or online or some mix,” she said. “We’re waiting to see where this pandemic goes in the next four to six weeks, and then we will make that call.”

USG President Taylor Holmes reminded students to utilize the resources available to them — virtual appointments with their advisers, the UIC Counseling Center, the UIC Pop-Up Pantry, and more.

“We know that this is a tough time for students and the university in general,” she said.

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