Faculty Senate talks COVID tests, online learning

Adam Tumino, Editor-in-Chief

Eastern’s Faculty Senate met via Zoom Tuesday, discussing recent COVID-19 testing on campus and the plans for the academic calendar going forward among other topics.

Members of the Student Government also joined the meeting to talk about their experiences as students during COVID-19 and issues they are having with online classes.

Before they joined the meeting, Eastern Provost Jay Gatrell delivered his Provost’s report to the senate, discussing the COVID-19 tests and flu vaccines that were provided on campus on Oct. 14 and going over some trends in the infection numbers at Eastern.

“First of all, I want to thank everyone who participated in last week’s testing on campus that was provided by the Illinois Department of Public Health in partnership with Coles County,” Gatrell said. “We actually had 765 tests, COVID tests, on campus in one day. That’s a pretty good, robust number. We exhausted all our flu vaccines for our students, and Coles County also did several hundred flu vaccines for faculty and staff, so we think it was a very, very good day and we look forward to the SHIELD surveillance testing beginning in the near future.”

Gatrell also said that the total number of COVID-19 cases on campus and the number of students in quarantine have gone down two weeks in a row.

He added that the results from the tests last week are not complete and are not yet a part of the numbers on campus.

“Obviously we still need to pay attention and be mindful of social distancing and mask policies,” he said. “I hope we can sort of double our efforts and really commit to ensuring a safe campus through social distancing and compliance with mask policies.”

Also during his report, Gatrell provided an update on the university’s plans with Thanksgiving Break and Spring Break. As of now, the plan is to have students return to campus after Thanksgiving Break and there is no plan yet to cancel Spring Break, as some universities have preemptively done.

Later on in the meeting, the senate was joined by Student Body President Noor Ul Haash Khamisani, Vice President of Academic Affairs Justin Richards and Vice President for Student Affairs Skylar Coffey.

The Student Government will hold its first meeting Wednesday, and some of its executive board members joined the Faculty Senate meeting to talk about how they have dealt with the challenges this semester as students.

All three had concerns with hybrid and online classes, mainly about difficulty engaging in class and having trouble reliably contacting their instructors.

“Things have been quite difficult, especially when writing papers and things like that, just getting a hold of professors has been extremely difficult,” Coffey said. “I find that my professors have been actually quite harsh on grading, more than normal.”

Richards said he sometimes has trouble reaching professors and has been frustrated with the organization of some of his online classes but understands that instructors are adjusting as well.

“We know it is not just hard on us, it is really hard on the faculty because you’ve had to shift from a classroom environment to a completely virtual, digital environment, and we know that’s not easy.”

Khamisani added that some students have to bear responsibility as well for some of the issues with online classes.

I do not think that it’s just professors or faculty; we need to work on engagement more, providing content. It’s also students,” she said. “I don’t know why, but students are also not willing to do things.”

Faculty Senate will not meet again until Nov. 10 instead of Nov. 3 because of election day.


Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]