SIUE’s COVID-19 messages spark confusion

A campus once teeming with life now sits desolate as all in-person classes have been moved online and food options in the Morris University Center have been closed.

SIUE has chosen to move online for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester due to concerns regarding the coronavirus.

This information was conveyed through a series of emails sent out over the past few weeks; however, some faculty members and students at SIUE felt these messages were confusing.

One of these faculty members is associate professor and chair of the physics department Jack Glassman. Glassman said although a lot of SIUE’s information regarding the virus was released quickly in order to keep everyone notified, there were still a few issues with some of the messages.

One specific email Glassman talked about was sent on March 11 by Chancellor Randy Pembrook. The subject line of the email said, “SIUE Spring Break Extended Thru March 22,” but, in the fifth paragraph of the same email, it said, “This is not an extension of spring break.”

“I understand what he was trying to say, and it’s an indication of how quickly this is all evolving,” Glassman said. “Usually that sort of internal contradiction in an email would have gotten caught because it would have been read, but getting it out right now is more important than getting it right.”

Senior exercise science major Jason Zhao, of Waterloo, Illinois, said he thought the least helpful emails sent out said nothing about actual plans to move forward, but only about how SIUE was working on a plan.

“I know it’s complex, but they were literally just giving us hints. I just wanted to know if it was an official cancel, if we were online, or when we would be online or what. I just wanted them to tell me straight about what was happening,” Zhao said. “And if they don’t have solid decisions yet, then don’t send a message out.”

Similar to Zhao, junior psychology major Connor McDonald, of Edwardsville, felt the emails administration sent out could be confusing.

“Every email felt kind of like it was the bare minimum they could give us in one message. I kept needing just a little more info about what was open, like the library, which they didn’t officially close until about a week ago,” McDonald said.

Zhao said he thought University Housing did their best with emails considering the short

amount of time they had to work with. Zhao lived on campus until he was told to leave by University


“I agree with how they’ve handled everything. Obviously, they can’t have people living there; they need to clean everything out,” Zhao said. “Most people probably don’t agree with me, but I think housing did the best they could.”

McDonald saw a different solution to these confusing emails: relying on his professors’ emails.

“Honestly, I know all my classes are going to be online, and I probably shouldn’t try to show up on campus. So, I just read what my professors email me now,” McDonald said.

Glassman has been sending many emails of his own, trying to transition his courses online. Glassman said planning to move online would take time, and the main problem was that all the classes in his department that could be online already were.

“Prior to this time, [the physics department] made a very conscious decision and said, ‘We don’t think, in our professional judgment, that we can offer the quality of instruction that we would like to offer in an online venue,’” Glassman said. “This semester, we have no choice. It’s an event that has happened external to the university. It’s driven this. It’s nobody’s fault, nobody chose to have a virus pandemic.”

Glassman said although emails from administration can be confusing, the most important thing now is for students and faculty to be understanding, as this is a stressful time for everyone involved.

“No matter how annoyed we all get, we will come out of this okay,” Glassman said. “Just, please, wash your hands, everyone.”

For those who have additional questions, many students have received replies when posting on SIUE’s social media pages, such as their Facebook.

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