The University of Michigan’s Central Student Government met virtually Tuesday evening to discuss a resolution to support the e-pivot and Pass/No Record grading in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They also held elections for the positions of vice chair of the Rules Committee and the Students of Michigan Legislative Delegate.
The Assembly elected LSA sophomore Jarek Schmanski as Vice Chair of the Rules Committee and Business sophomore Ruben Garcia as the Students of Michigan Legislative Delegate.
LSA senior Joseph Lobodzinski introduced Assembly Resolution 11-051, a motion in support of the e-pivot and additional COVID-19 accommodations for students and faculty.
“This all started on January 3, when the administration, despite the numbers, despite the facts, decided that they were going to do classes in person this week,” Lobodzinski said. “What this resolution does is it advocates that professors hold the right to initiate the pivot which essentially says that a professor can pivot their class online for the first two weeks until COVID cases go back down to a relatively stable level.”
Lobodzinski spoke to the specific circumstances the University is facing that led members of the community to call for the e-pivot – high positivity rates in the University and surrounding communities, flight cancellations and the high number of students currently quarantining or isolating.
The resolved clauses ask three things of the University – support for faculty members modifying their course modalities in the face of high COVID-19 numbers, condemnation of officials who retaliate against pivoting professors and reinstatement of the Pass/No Record COVID-19 grading option for the Winter 2022 semester.
The Michigan Daily was not able to confirm cases of retaliation against instructional staff participating in the e-pivot. When The Daily asked University President Mark Schlissel if the administration planned to impose consequences on pivoting faculty, he said the University is encouraging instructors to use their discretion in dealing with the spread of the omicron variant.
Business sophomore Ruben Garcia spoke in opposition to the resolution, citing the open letter signed by over 700 students which advocates for a fully in-person semester.
“Such students and I cite both the detriment of (what) going online would do to our educational experience and the already extensive vaccination and masking measures the University continues to maintain,” Garcia said. “I’d also like to call into question the effectiveness and practicality of an e-pivot program at this time, given that a majority of the student body already is in Ann Arbor, and that we already are almost into a full week of classes.”
Engineering sophomore Maria Fields expressed her strong opposition to a fully in-person semester.
“This is a matter of people’s health and well-being,” Fields said. “It’s very important that people are putting their safety first because, while we are here to get education, no one should be risking life and limb—as well as putting other people in danger if they’ve been exposed to COVID—for the sake of class.”
LSA freshman Mario Thaqi was skeptical of Fields’ risk assessment.
“I think the arm-and-leg risk is a bit over-exaggerated,” Thaqi said. “You know, we’ve been in this pandemic for about two years, and I think the bigger issue is truly students’ mental health.”
Thaqi cited the preemptive measures the University has been taking to make the transition back to in-person classes safe — the distribution of at-home rapid tests to all students in residence halls and the requirement for all students to get a booster shot before Feb. 4.
Lobodzinski responded to this concern, raising the issue of protecting immunocompromised people.
“There’s (sic) people among us who are immunocompromised, they have things such as diabetes and other ailments that they have no control over and that puts them at a disadvantage in fighting this virus if they were to contract it,” Lobodzinski said. “Am I happy about the fact that we might have to do another two weeks online? No. But we should because it’s just the right thing to do.”
Fields countered Thaqi’s point about in-person classes being beneficial to mental health, arguing some students are stressed about contracting the virus, a fear exacerbated by in-person classes. She said this resolution supports both sides of this spectrum by giving students and teaching staff the option to do class online or in-person.
“There’s a lot of different things coming at everybody,” Fields said. “So I think it’s just that we need to be respectful and give people the choice, which is what this resolution is doing. It’s giving people a choice.”
Engineering junior Zaynab Elkolaly also argued against Thaqi’s statement about the risk of COVID-19 being over-exaggerated.
“I was a little bit shocked when I heard certain rhetoric about how COVID is not that bad right now, to paraphrase, or that it’s an exaggeration for us to say that people’s lives are at stake,” Elkolaly said. “Because they are, but the people’s lives who are at stake are immunocompromised, disabled people. So I want to speak to the privilege that it takes to be able to insinuate that everyone is safe, that people aren’t dying, that we’re just exaggerating.”
The resolution ultimately passed, with 32 CSG members in favor of its passage and two members in opposition.
LSA senior Vincent Pinti shared his personal experiences as a disabled and immunocompromised person who has been denied accommodations by professors this semester.
“I find it incredibly alarming that we think that the mental health crisis of students having to attend classes online is worse than the mental health crisis of students having to deal with their friends dying or worried about going to class,” Pinti said.
Daily Staff Reporter Audrey Clayton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.