Students Denied Virtual Option After Testing Positive for COVID-19

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Published October 13, 2021
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The Montclarion
Sal DiMaggio, a Montclair State student, on his laptop in the School of Communication and Media. John LaRosa | The Montclarion

Montclair State University students missing classes due to coronavirus (COVID-19) fear falling behind in their coursework. Some have asked to attend class virtually through Zoom, but their requests were denied.

Alexis Utter, a freshman dance major, contracted COVID-19 during the first week of classes and did not have the option to attend her fundamentals of speech class through Zoom.

“I was out the first week of school and because I’m a freshman, I felt like I was in the dark,” Utter said. “While I believe it is important to focus on getting back to in-person learning, students who are absent due to COVID-19 [and such] should have the option to Zoom into class.”

Alexis Utter said professors should give students the option to attend class virtually if they have COVID-19. Photo courtesy of Alexis Utter

Alexis Utter said professors should give students the option to attend class virtually if they have COVID-19.
Photo courtesy of Alexis Utter

Ashleigh Corby, a sophomore journalism and digital media major, also tested positive for COVID-19 during the first week of school and was denied a Zoom link for three of her classes.

“I was really worried about falling behind, especially since it was the beginning of the school year,” Corby said. “Luckily, now I am caught up and healthy. But, I know I had to stay up pretty late once I felt better [enough] to catch up on reading and assignments.”

Ashleigh Corby missed three of her classes due to COVID-19. Photo courtesy of Ashleigh Corby

Ashleigh Corby missed three of her classes due to COVID-19.
Photo courtesy of Ashleigh Corby

Leah Dawer, a graduate student studying social work, asked for a Zoom link while waiting to receive further accommodations from the Disability Resource Center regarding a medical condition. While her request was not related to COVID-19, she said professors denying access to class through Zoom can increase the spread of the virus.

“It is encouraging students to come to campus when they should be staying home,” Dawer said. “While some students may abuse the system, the university needs to assume that most students are honest if they don’t come to campus.”

Leah Dawer's request for a Zoom link was denied. Jenna Sundel | The Montclarion

Leah Dawer’s request for a Zoom link was denied.
Jenna Sundel | The Montclarion

Margaree Coleman-Carter, associate vice president and dean of students, explained the protocol for when students contract COVID-19.

“I would advise the students to do and follow the Hawk Check instructions,” Carter said. “If you are instructed to stay home, the student will be contacted by a clinician for an evaluation. Faculty are willing to work with students who have been instructed by the health center to remain home.”

Andrew Mees, the university spokesperson, said professors are allowed to provide a Zoom link to students who tested positive for COVID-19.

“A professor is allowed to provide a Zoom link for an in-person course to ensure students who require accommodations are staying on track,” Mees said. “They are simply not allowed to move the entirety of their in-person course to an online modality until such a decision is made at the university level.”

Mees said it is ultimately up to professors to ensure that students do not fall behind.

“Should a student be granted an accommodation for any reason, it is the professor’s responsibility to ensure that they stay on track in a given course and it is up to the professor’s discretion how they facilitate that,” Mees said.

Stacy Gitlin, a professor at the School of Communication and Media, said she gives her students the option to attend class virtually.

“Science and community have given us the tools to combat this pandemic and we should support each other every step of the way,” Gitlin said. “Luckily for me, that just means a little extra time and a simple Zoom link. For others in this country, their contribution is so much more. And I thank them every day for that.”

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