Luther College Returns to In-Person Classes

Luther+College+Covid+policies+and+procedures+from+Quarter+1+still+in+place.+Photo+by+Lilly+Reiser+courtesy+of+Photo+Bureau.

Luther College Covid policies and procedures from Quarter 1 still in place. Photo by Lilly Reiser courtesy of Photo Bureau.

As a response to the Luther College administration’s decision to bring all Luther students back to campus on January 11, two petitions with competing visions were circulated within the Luther community. Both of the petitions were created by students to address concerns surrounding COVID-19 and its impacts on academics and campus life. One petition, created by Maddy Lomprey (‘21), Ochain Okey (‘22), and Shannon Schultz (‘22), called for an extension of the circuit breaker, lasting until the beginning of the second semester on February 4. A second petition, created by Adam Burdzy (‘22) and Svea Smith (‘21), called for support for the administration’s plan to return to in-person activities on January 11.

Adam Burdzy (’22), co-author of the petition to end the circuit breaker as planned attends virtual meeting to discuss the return to campus.

The creators of the petition to extend the circuit breaker cited concern from students about returning to campus for just three weeks before another week-long break between the end of Quarter 2 classes and the beginning of Spring semester classes. They also cited concerns from students following the COVID-19 guidelines set in place by the college at the beginning of Quarter 1, and the rising number of cases nationwide. The requests of the writers of this petition were not fulfilled, as in-person classes resumed as scheduled on January 11.

“I feel like the petition went unnoticed and was tragically overlooked,” Okey said. “It feels like concerned students, family members, staff, and faculty’s voices are being ignored and dismissed. With over 44% of the student body (766) and over 1400 total signatures, how can that go unaddressed? With week one of in-person instruction courses, I’m curious to see if the cases of COVID-19 will fluctuate, or if it will remain consistent with where we are sitting today.”

Ochain Okey (’22), co-author of the petition to continue the circuit breaker, discusses the return to campus.

The authors of the second petition, Burdzy and Smith, approached the situation differently. They emphasized how the learning process of higher education occurs best when students are physically present.

“I think it has been really nice to come back and be in person,” Smith said. “I have been a lot more engaged in classes and I feel that I am getting more out of it because I can ask questions, and my teacher can see that my hand is raised immediately. I think that the discussion flows a lot better, rather than kind of having that lag time over a computer screen, and it is much more beneficial to my education.”

Svea Smith (’21), co-author of the petition to end the circuit breaker, discusses the return to campus.

Both petitions were reviewed and discussed by Luther College’s COVID-19 Response Team and were seen as part of broader student response to the task force’s actions throughout the year. Vice President and Dean for Student Life Corey Landstrom acknowledges that while many students are excited to be back in in-person classes, others are still concerned about the potential dangers posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need to do some community-based work around rebuilding trust with one another,” Landstrom said. “Generally, and this goes back to last spring too, students want to be present in their community and on-campus learning in the classroom and recognize that some trepidations and anxiety are related to the risks. But, if we all remind ourselves and remind one another to follow the safety guidelines (wearing masks, keeping distance, etc.), then we’re going to reduce the risk of exposure, not only to ourselves but to our peers, our faculty, and our staff.”

The Luther College COVID-19 Response Team will continue to meet with student government leaders and respond to individual and collective student concerns. Until then, students must continue to follow the COVID-19 safety protocols set by Luther College.

*copies of both petitions may be found on the CHIPS website’s opinion page

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