Editorial | DI reflects on unprecedented year’s glories, missteps
May 13, 2021
Illini were tested like never before this academic year. COVID-19 propelled students and faculty into strenuous semesters marked by Zoom fatigue, constant testing — COVID-19 and class-wise — and atypical social constraints. Nonetheless, this tumultuous time united those both on and off campus toward a purpose of collective durability.
As Illini prepare for fall, now is the moment to reflect and regard what was effective or defective on the University’s part, as well as what The Daily Illini will improve going forward:
The University deserves commendation for its COVID-19 efforts. The University’s testing policy not only ensured a safe year but also aided campus to lead the nation in restraining the pandemic: For several months, Champaign-Urbana was a reliable bubble as University COVID-19 codes protected the student body.
Ranging from valiant endeavors like implementing the Safer Illinois app to a presently robust vaccination program, the University finished this year with a remarkably low positivity rate below 0.05%.
However, the University’s struggles with profound mistakes like Ivor Chen’s momentary dismissal elucidate that its COVID-19 experience was not flawless. Unclear testing procedures — especially for graduate students — regularly occurred, yet overall, Illini prevailed in establishing secure semesters.
Another area worthy of praise is the Memorial Stadium events. Including movie nights, concerts and dance performances, Memorial’s shift to socially distant events was a great opportunity for all participants. With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still advising for spacious, outdoor events, the University should once again employ entertaining events at Memorial Stadium and other spaces next year.
What requires criticism
For freshmen, the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year was an arduous period.
Spending nearly two weeks isolating in dorms is no way to begin college. Yet for this year’s freshman, protecting against COVID-19 warranted a grueling beginning. Despite this last fall representing a unique situation, the University cannot burden students in such a manner again if it craves productive, sociable students to enter campus.
One area which deserves the strictest objection is the removal of a spring break. Deprived of spring break, this semester felt like a cruel marathon. The well-intentioned “wellness days” served little justice to their name.
This semester is at its conclusion, but let there never be a canceled spring break again.
Other instances this year which demand conviction are the University’s early mishandling of Proctorio and dreadful approach to international online education. In October, The DI covered students’ concerns with Proctorio’s handling of private data: storage ambiguously concerning. Similarly, accounts such as Sarah Kishta’s reveal ghastly academic conditions for international students who shifted their schedules nearly half a day to appease deadlines.
“In the Egypt time zone, my classes start from 4:30 p.m. to 12 a.m.,” Kishta said in September.
With these major schedule variations, there is little uncertainty as to why international enrollment decreased this last year.
Although online education was destined to be rough, the digital proctoring service — and privacy-invasive — Proctorio, alongside the University’s disregard for international time differences, were blatant academic aches for the school year.
What The DI will improve
It would be hypocritical to only discuss others’ faults and not look inward. Therefore, it is The DI’s responsibility to its audience to continuously commit to excellence.
Originating with staff turnover in March, the current DI team has consistently produced content online and in paper — a medium awaiting renovation as a digital focus cultivates. As such, we strive for more in-depth, abundant content beginning next semester.
Furthermore, The DI aims to correct any mistakes and vehemently pursue the truth wherever it leads. Being an independent institution, we must report and produce content critical to our audience.
Already we are shifting our reporting process, and as COVID-19 recedes, we yearn to discover innovative manners to deliver what our audience requires.
A specific development within works is a collaboration between sections. Up to this point, DI sections remained fairly independent; now, sections will advance content among ourselves to encourage quality content.
For those who continually depend on The DI, we thank you for your readership. Correspondingly, times like no other compel unparalleled coverage. We expect to excel with creativity and courage in the coming year, and anticipate our audience to attend.
Onward to a brighter campus and paper.