UW-Madison students concerned about university’s reopening plan

Some students say they still don't know the specifics of in-person learning, causing safety concerns.
Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 6:46 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A new survey, conducted by the United Faculty and Academic Staff and the Teaching Assistants Association, shows 86.4 percent of UW-Madison workers are uncomfortable with the university’s reopening plan.

Most responses came from graduate student workers and faculty, but some undergraduate students feel the same.

“I feel like it’s going to be a disaster just on all fronts,” said rising junior Cassidy Mays.

Mays and other students said they feel like there is still uncertainty around how in-person classes will work.

“We haven’t received any information whatsoever about protocol, about social distancing in these classrooms, really nothing,” explained rising junior Milan Stolpman.

Students did acknowledge the difficulty of online classes.

“Going online was definitely a bummer last semester and the thought of going back to that definitely isn’t ideal,” said rising junior Violet Allscheid.

However, the lack of specific information is causing safety concerns.

“I don’t know if there’s going to be hand sanitizer at the door or masks or if people are going to get hired to wipe things down,” Allscheid explained.

UW-Madison’s Smart Restart plan does list mask requirements and social distancing requirements in classrooms.

University spokesperson Meredith McGlone also shared that the survey was taken before UW-Madison released more information to employees, including an update from Chancellor Rebecca Blank.

Chancellor Blank’s message said in part, “We are doing everything we can to reduce health risks for students, staff and faculty. Our plans are informed by the latest science and public health information.” The message went on to list several planned safety precautions including testing and contact tracing.

Some students also cited a financial concern.

“I think they should be honest with students instead of using them for the tuition frankly,” Stolpman said.

“It’s a little concerning considering how much money we pay to go here. We deserve some clarity on the situation,” Mays said, adding, “I feel like we always get an email that’s very vaguely worded and tells us a little bit of information but not anything that’s concrete, so it’d be nice to have some solid stuff that is, ‘Here’s our plan, here’s what’s going to happen'.”

Chancellor Blank’s statement acknowledged UW’s financial struggles, but emphasized those challenges are not the main factor in developing plans.

The statement also explained that employees who can work remotely should continue to do so, and other employees can expect more instructions in early August.

Students said they still feel left in the dark.

“I think something that the university kind of sugarcoated that were going to be in person versus online and the safety regarding those classes,” Allscheid said.

McGlone told NBC15 45 percent of classes will have an in-person component, with 37 percent going fully in-person.

UW-Madison’s fall semester will start on September 2. Some classes will be held in person until Thanksgiving break, when all classes will move online.

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