Students express concern about Omicron impact on spring semester

A+biohazard+trash+bin+containing+funnels+and+straws+used+from+COVID-19+testing+at+the+ARC.+Many+students+share+their+thoughts+about+the+future+of+the+2022+spring+semester+amid+the+Omicron+surge.+

Cameron Krasucki

A biohazard trash bin containing funnels and straws used from COVID-19 testing at the ARC. Many students share their thoughts about the future of the 2022 spring semester amid the Omicron surge.

By Fizza Hassan, Staff Writer

With the ongoing threat of Omicron, some students are worried about attending classes completely in person. But despite the surge of the new variant and the University’s constantly changing COVID-19 safety regulations, students are cautiously optimistic for the new semester.

Rizwan Ali Khan, second-year graduate student in Engineering, said his transition as an international student in spring 2021 was easy thanks to the University’s actions.

“With the hybrid mode of learning, and a non-invasive COVID-19 testing facility, it was pretty seamless for me, integrating into the U of I culture, despite the pandemic,” Khan said.

Jamiel Abed, junior in Engineering, said he is not worried about classes moving online. Abed also said the University has handled the pandemic well.

“Given the circumstances, honestly not that bad,” Abed said. “I know generally speaking, UIUC is one of the better universities at keeping track of COVID and contact tracing and stuff like that.”

Abed also shared his preference for classes that are completely in person.

“I would prefer if all of them were in person,” Abed said. “I want to be in class, like, I have an apartment in Champaign so why wouldn’t I just want to walk two minutes to class? I don’t see it as an inconvenience. In fact, I see it as a really big convenience, to be able to go to class.”

Some students, however, think that integrating Zoom into classes might make getting an education much easier.

Grace Rehayem, junior in LAS and Education, said she would prefer to have as many in-person classes as possible with the caveat that there is an offered Zoom option.

“Twice last semester, I was exposed to COVID-19 and couldn’t come to class, and some of my professors offered a Zoom option, some didn’t,” Rehayem said. “I think it would be easier to have a Zoom option as a backup.”

Falu Deshpande, graduate student in AHS, agreed and said professors should start permanently offering a secondary Zoom option.

“There is a need to speak with professors about being more accommodating in moving virtual,” Deshpande said. “Some of my fellow students occasionally would request a Zoom link because they weren’t able to go in person. If they (teachers) need a ‘how to’ on Zoom, they should do it because I feel a professor’s ability to understand Zoom shouldn’t really be in the way of safety.”

Deshpande is also concerned about the implementation of safety precautions, such as checking building access.

“I knew that they still ask for building access, but it was random, like for some of my classes I never was asked for my access, I never knew when I was going to be asked, but I feel they should have,” Deshpande said. “For some reason, they only decide to do a couple of buildings, like maybe once a week for a couple of hours.”

As a solution, Deshpande believes the University should work to hire more people to check building access and increase the number of tests.

“My suggestion to them (the University) is that they check building access for every building every day,” Deshpande said. “It might be a good idea to implement testing again, maybe twice a week.”

Rehayem also said the University should expand testing but in certain areas.

“They should expand on the testing, and just make sure they’re testing people, especially in the dorms and areas that might be more infectious,” Reyahem said.

Deshpande said the COVID-19 Massmails needed to be more detailed, which would help the information be better received by the community.

“It would be nice if people received an email that summarizes everything,” Deshpande said. “Preferably, a more official email should be sent out from at least every college concisely putting everything together.”

Rehayem thinks improving mental health resources would make the spring semester much more enjoyable.

“In general, improving the resources allocated to mental health, would also be a huge help,” she said. “I always think the Counseling Center should expand its services because mentally, it’s tough for students going through the pandemic.”

When looking back on recent semesters, Abed was impressed by the University’s transition into online. He is also happy the fall 2021 semester was in person and hopes it stays that way.

“So given everything, I’m actually proud of the fact that we had a full year online,” he said. “We then had a full semester in person. Hopefully, only one week is online for the next semester.”

Deshpande hopes that events, including graduation, will be back to the way they were before the pandemic.

“I know that at least the seniors this year want to graduate in person,” Deshpande said. “I personally would like to graduate in person.”

 

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