Reinstated UI grad student calls for disciplinary rehaul in personal statement

A picture of Ivor Chen posted by the Graduate Employees' Organization petition. Chen was reinstated at the University on Feb. 16.

Photo Courtesy of GEO

A picture of Ivor Chen posted by the Graduate Employees’ Organization petition. Chen was reinstated at the University on Feb. 16.

By The Daily Illini Staff Report

The following is a statement from recently reinstated UI graduate student Ivor Chen, who was initially dismissed from the University after being charged with COVID-19 testing noncompliance.

After outcry from the Graduate Employees’ Organization and thousands of students on campus, the University’s disciplinary committee reconsidered his case and reduced his punishment.

Chen shared the following remarks with The Daily Illini on Wednesday night:

“To my fellow graduate researchers, professors, undergraduate students,

First of all, I want to thank all the students for their incredible support in the last few days. I want to thank everyone on the GEO team for all the work done on my behalf, and I want to thank all the professors and staff members who went out of their ways to help me. Thank you all very much. 

And your voices are heard. On Feb. 16, Dean Justin Brown informed me that the disciplinary committee modified my punishments to (1) dismissal held in abeyance / conduct probation (2) two 1000-word essays and (3) 25-hour community service. 

I intend to accept the punishment. This is not the best result one can hope for, but it is something I can swallow.

In the last few days, I have read and heard many stories of how the university’s inconsiderate policies and disciplinary actions affected students’ lives. Since my case is out in the open, and since I have 18,000 signatures on my petition, it is my responsibility to step up and say something to the university’s administration. 

Certainly, I do not claim to represent anyone but myself. And what I am about to propose is nothing but a piece of personal opinion. But I do hope it can stimulate widespread discussions among students and faculty members. With sufficient debates and discussions, it is my hope that we could present our collective opinion to the university administration to call for a more transparent and humane COVID-19 policy. 

Proposal:

  1. Disciplinary sanctions should be nuanced, tiered and educational in nature. In response to reported noncompliance, the COVID-19 response team should: 
    1. On first report, send a written personal notice to remind the student of his or her alleged noncompliance, to inform the student of detailed COVID-19 policies, and to offer help if the student has special conditions preventing him or her from participating in COVID-19 testing program. 
    2. On second report, the student should expect to have an informal meeting with the COVID-19 response team to discuss his or her alleged noncompliance. The student should be informed clearly of the consequence of further noncompliance. 
    3. Formal procedure of student disciplinary process will start on the third report. 
  2. Severity of disciplinary sanctions should depend primarily on the impact of the alleged noncompliance. Medical/public-health experts from McKinley or College of Medicine should assess the impact of the alleged noncompliance. The assessment criterion should be made open and transparent. The student disciplinary office should not be involved in this assessment process. 
  3. Undergraduate who missed a test should be notified through Safer Illinois app. One day after a missed test, the student shall see a warning message in the app and shall be denied access to campus buildings. The warning message should contain contact information of COVID-19 response team in order to provide the student with an opportunity to resolve his or her situation. Two days after a missed test, the same message shall be repeated to the student. Three days after a missed test, the non-compliance shall be reported to the COVID-19 response team.
  4. University COVID-19 policies should treat graduate researchers the same way as faculty members and staff.  This includes an automatic exemption from testing if the graduate researcher is 100% remote.

This University is blessed with the best professors and the best students. Hence, the administrators have a duty of care, especially in the time of upheaval and uncertainty. As my professors have written in their letter of support, UIUC has distinguished itself as a national leader in controlling the spread of COVID-19. Strict enforcement of student conduct violations has been an essential element of this success. But it is equally important that the University maintains its commitment to a just and nuanced student conduct system in which the punishment fits the violation; the University’s reputation regarding the fairness with which it arbitrates the student conduct violations will last far longer than the current pandemic.”

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