Chancellor Robert Jones delivers annual State of the University address

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Sydney Laput

Chancellor Robert J. Jones awaits to speak at the Siebel Center for Design grand opening on Oct. 8. Jones delivered the annual State of the University address on Thursday and mentioned that he has high hopes for the future of the University post COVID-19.

By Vivian La, Assistant Daytime Editor

At the State of the University address on Thursday, Chancellor Robert J. Jones said he’s very optimistic about the future of the University and efforts to grow after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual address by Jones featured the University’s accomplishments in the last year, which were mostly related to the school’s efforts in managing the pandemic as well as highlighting future goals.

“Optimism is the state of the University of Illinois as I see it today,” Jones said.

Mentioning University researchers in regards to COVID-19 mitigation, SHIELD efforts and high campus vaccination rates, Jones said every decision was made with the health of the community in mind.

Jones talked briefly about the Omicron variant, a highly contagious strain of COVID-19 that was first detected in South Africa around late November. As of Thursday, two cases of the variant have been found in the United States.

Echoing President Biden’s message on the variant, Jones said it is a cause for concern and not panic.

As of Thursday, 94% of the campus population is fully vaccinated, Jones said.

This comes as the COVID-19 positivity rate on campus reached 1.3% on Wednesday, the highest since the beginning of the fall semester, according to data from the University testing dashboard.

Jones also said the pandemic gave the University a chance for innovation and outreach, as well as to address societal issues.

“Every crisis we face becomes a catalyst for new ideas, new innovations, new approaches that help our local community, our state and our nation to heal and recover more quickly,” Jones said.

Jones pointed to significant leadership appointments such as Jacki Rand, associate vice chancellor for Native Affairs as well as record student enrollment numbers.

This year welcomed the largest freshman class, bringing total student enrollment to over 56,000 students. Jones said this was a 12,000 student increase since his appointment as chancellor in 2016.

There have been significant University efforts to work with Champaign-Urbana community leaders in addressing unequal access to health care, education and other services, Jones said.

Not only was the community, state and country exposed to an “insidious infection” but also unequal access along race and socioeconomic status, Jones said.

“As a public university, we have a responsibility to leverage our enormous intellectual resources to help find new and better ways to heal those divides and create pathways for inclusion and respect that guides the solution,” Jones said.

Jones said he’s proud of the accomplishments of the campus community and looks forward to continuing efforts to heal from the pandemic.

“I could not be more proud of the accomplishments, achievements that each and every one of you have brought in the darkest times and the impact we’ll have on the world,” Jones said.

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