A student at Illinois State University, looks across Milner Library as students work on assignments Tuesday, March 7, 2006, in Normal, Ill.
(The Center Square) – As some unionized faculty and staff push for remote learning this fall at Illinois colleges and universities, there are others who want to get back into the classroom.
Faculty and employees represented by 40 unions around the state, including 7 of the 12 public universities, have voiced concerns about returning to campus during the COVID-19 pandemic.
John Miller, president of University Professionals of Illinois, which represents more than 3,000 members, said online learning may not be ideal for every student, but there are risks with in-person instruction.
“With so much still unknown about COVID-19, this is not the time to rush to reopen our institutions,” said Miller. “Science must guide our decisions.”
The union coalition contends all classes should be remote, except ones where distance learning is not possible, such as labs, music and dance courses.
Most schools have outlined reopening plans for the fall semester, including Illinois State University, calling it “Redbirds Return”. Ben Saad, an associate professor of infectious disease ecology at ISU, has confidence in their plan.
“We can simply lock ourselves away now and come out when this is all over, however, this is unlikely to be the best option in the long run and for our students, who would suffer,” Saad said.
Billy Hung, associate professor of microbiology at Eastern Illinois University, says he wants to see his students, but the risk is too great
“All the indicators about public health, about how people behave and the amount of resources that each campus devote to maintaining safety, all of these signs point to a very high likelihood that we’re going to have outbreaks if we open face-to-face,” said Hung.
Jeff Helms, associate professor in the microbiology department at Illinois State University, said students are at a disadvantage with online learning.
“How can they gain the foundational knowledge and hands-on experience that they need if everything is online?” Helms said. “They can’t.”
Things are going down to the wire. The first day of classes for many schools is August 19.