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WGLT's reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, which began in McLean County in March 2020.

ISU To Offer More Flexibility On Telework, Instruction To De-Densify Campus At Reopening

Painters at work at ISU
Illinois State University
Painters Brad Brakebill, foreground, and Chris Brown sand, caulk, and paint window frames and trim on the exterior of Fairchild Hall.

Illinois State University’s administration will release a new round of reopening guidance next week related to work-from-home and instruction that could help to de-densify campus when students return in August, a spokesperson said Thursday.

That new guidance comes as nearly 400 concerned faculty, staff, students, and community members have signed a letter to ISU President Larry Dietz, arguing that the university’s COVID-19 planning has come up short in many key ways. Academic Senate chair Susan Kalter, who signed the letter, has called an all-faculty meeting for July 16 via Zoom to discuss “serious matters” related to the reopening.

Last month, ISU administration released the draft Redbirds Return plan for the fall semester, answering some—but not all—questions about what life will look like at ISU when classes resume Aug. 17. It calls for a “blended” approach for fall instruction, with some classes on campus and others online, or a little of both. Residence halls and dining centers would be open with new precautions, like limited dorm guests and more spread-out seating. Everyone would be expected to wear face coverings.

Response to letter

Dietz has formally received the letter, and ISU spokesperson Eric Jome provided a follow-up statement to WGLT on Thursday.

Countering criticism that the Redbirds Return plan was drafted without sufficient employee input, Jome said “there have been more than 2,500 participants, which include faculty, staff and department, school and college leadership, in Zoom meetings hosted by the Provost’s Office in regard to the university’s COVID-19 response and planning for the fall term. This is in addition to workgroups and subcommittees that have met on a daily basis for months.”

The Redbirds Return document is “very fluid, and a new round of guidance will come out formally next week—including that faculty will have more flexibility in determining course modalities and employees will have more flexibility for remote work,” Jome said.

“This flexibility will further serve to de-densify campus,” he said.

ISU also will be formally announcing that instruction and final exams will be remote after the Thanksgiving break, although the university will remain open to serve student needs, Jome said. More complete information about required face coverings and expectations for the fall term will be available next week, he said.

“A lot of what can be found in the petition that has been circulating has been addressed by the large numbers of faculty and staff that have been diligently working on our response to the coronavirus pandemic since February, and thus far these efforts have kept the university, and its faculty, staff and students safe and healthy,” Jome said.

We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WGLT will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WGLT can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.

Ryan Denham is the content director for WGLT and WCBU.
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