Temporary in-person class shutdown is a positive move by university

Essential classes have opportunity to request to continue meeting in-person

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Patrick Murphy | Northern Star

No additional students test positive for COVID-19 and 3 students recover.

Danielle Elliott, Contributor

NIU President Lisa Freeman sent out an email Friday to inform students that the university will temporarily be moving undergraduate courses online for two weeks due to the quick rise in students testing positive for COVID-19. 

We are now nearly a week into the pause, and it seems to have been a smart move on the university’s part as the amount of  students and employees testing positive is slowing down. 

There were 73 additional students who were reported positive for the coronavirus on Sept. 8, just before the shut down, according to NIU Campus COVID-19 Dashboard data. This number was a cumulative total of positive test results from the three days prior to Sept. 8. We are now looking at approximately 5 students testing positive a day following the shutdown. 

As a student, I was proud of my school for making such a difficult yet necessary decision for their students, staff and community’s safety. It is evident that we all miss in-person classes and having a vibrant campus, but that is not possible right now. Safety is of utmost importance.

“A few exceptions may be granted by the Provost in response to a faculty member’s request,” Freeman wrote in the email. 

This may have left many students wondering what classes qualify to remain in-person. 

Provost Beth Ingram said the essential criteria for classes to remain in-person. The class must fit one or more of the following: students are required to demonstrate a skill that could not be shown online, a lab course where students are doing something that would be hard to replicate at home, or a performance-based class where online delays may cause ineffective learning. If a professor believes their class qualified for one of these, they can reach out to the Provost and explain their reasoning as to why they believe their class should remain in-person, she said.

Most of NIU’s classes for this semester were already online, so the pause did not necessarily affect many students’ classwork. 

“[There are] probably under 50 [in-person classes currently] depending on if you count all the sections of the class under one number,” Ingram said.

This total does not count off-campus student-teacher placements and clinicals.

“Certainly we are monitoring the dashboard every day and the cases,” Ingram said. You know, right now, things are looking pretty good, and so the expectation is that we would go back to normal operations. But, of course, I can’t guarantee anything because the situation changes so rapidly.”

This is understandable as hardly anything in 2020 has proven to be certain. The university will make a decision sometime next week on what classes will look like, Ingram said. With the cases decreasing, it is looking like we will be back to how things were last week. 

Ingram urges the DeKalb community to remember that we are all a part of this community, and it is every single person’s job to help keep the community safe by wearing our masks, practicing social distancing, and washing our hands. 

It can be easy to become frustrated with the uncertainty of things right now and the constant struggle to connect with people and learn safely. I find myself getting frustrated often. What helps with working through this frustration, though, is knowing that NIU has leaders that are working hard every single day to make sure their students, staff, and the DeKalb community are safe. The decisions they make are often not exciting or hopeful, but are understandable and smart.