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Quarantined students denied online class access amid rising case numbers

Updated: Apr 25, 2022

Students are sick, and what’s more, they’re sick of missing class.

As the rapid spread of omicron hikes case numbers to new heights at Belmont, more and more students find themselves in quarantine while they recover. During online semesters in the past, keeping up with coursework just meant logging onto regularly scheduled Zoom meetings.

But this spring, an increasing number of faculty refuse to make online accommodations for those sick at home.

Student frustrations boiled over in an online petition created by songwriting junior Juju McKay.

McKay, who already took a semester off when COVID-19 first began ravaging campus, notified her professors after she tested positive for the virus. Two of them did not offer an online alternative to their classes, she said.

“I’m not expecting a lot,” McKay said. “Vaccines are not required. The least that we can do for the students and for the professors as well is to have this as an option. Always.”

Coming off a semester of online and HyFlex classes, all classrooms and professors already have the ability to make a Zoom option available to quarantined students, McKay said in the purpose statement for her petition, which gained over 100 signatures in its first week.

McKay’s call for action echoes a similar petition at Vanderbilt University, where graduate students are requesting administration bring back hybrid learning options, no questions asked, so students can access the classes contributing to their degrees.

“If all I need to do is listen … I just want to get as much out of what I’m paying for,” said McKay.

Across the Belmont community, other students quarantined with COVID-19 are also asking for leniency.

“I’d just appreciate some more compromising and accessibility to my courses so I can still try and be productive even though I’m sick,” said songwriting sophomore Julia Campopiano.

In administrators’ eyes, Zoom and in-person education can’t compare in value.

“I was told by my chair that we are to be in person because people are paying to be in person. So I don’t offer that,” said Dr. Krista McBride of the chemistry and physics department. “If we have exams or tests, I will provide them on Blackboard for them to take if they have to miss.”

Multiple professors across several departments declined to comment on the topic.

“As is the case in any student absence due to illness, professors are expected to work with students to make reasonable and appropriate arrangements so that the student can keep up with their coursework,” said the university in a statement to the Vision.

“Professors may take a number of approaches to ensure students can keep up with coursework during those absences. While some faculty members may provide Zoom or similar remote class participation options, this isn’t possible in many instructional models given the implications within the classroom,” the statement read.

While new data from the Tennessee Department of Health suggests the spread of omicron is slowing, Belmont’s academic calendar is not.

Students will continue to navigate the semester with both their health and their grades at stake.

PHOTO: Belmont Vision Multimedia / Annie Petrik

This article was written by Anna Jackson. Contributory reporting by Reyna Galvez and Sarah Maninger.

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