DePaul not able to extend remote learning for high-risk students

It all came to a realization that students, boosted or not, would all be in person starting last Tuesday to sophomore Lilly Keller when the university released their updated Covid-19 policies.

Keller is immunocompromised and is more likely to experience a severe case of Covid-19.

“They are handling Omicron as if it has simply become a matter of when rather than if,” she said

DePaul will not offer accommodations for disabled, immunocompromised and chronically ill students after returning in person on Tuesday. The university also has not extended the deadline to drop or add classes without financial and academic penalty.

The Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) will not be able to extend remote learning for in person classes to students who are at high risk for Covid-19.

CSD confirmed to The DePaulia that they could not provide accommodations for students due to not being able to interfere with the mode of instruction.

“The CSD has accommodations to support students whose conditions may occasionally impede their ability to attend class or meet deadlines for assignments,” said CSD Director Gregory Moorehead in an email to The DePaulia. “The CSD also works with professors/departments who have determined that their courses may be effectively taught remotely. However, course modality is a pedagogical decision that’s made by faculty and not the CSD.”

DePaul reaffirmed on Thursday, Jan. 13, that they would be returning to in-person classes. Students’ last day to add classes was Jan. 9, while the deadline to drop winter quarter classes with no penalty and a full tuition refund was Jan. 16, according to DePaul’s academic calendar.

If a student chooses to drop an in-person class, they would not be able to add a remote section. Students would also take a withdrawal or “W” on their transcript and pay full price. A four-credit class at DePaul costs about  $2,000.

In an email obtained by The DePaulia, a student who wishes to stay anonymous reached out to CSD asking for remote accommodations due to them being high risk. CSD had responded with a similar statement about their inability to get involved.

“[My previous email] means that making courses that are not designed to be taught online to switch modality and delivered to you online is not an accommodation that can be provided at this time,” Moorehead said in the email to the student on Jan. 13.

CSD accommodations are issued individually, according to the CSD homepage. They offer course selection consultation, faculty consultation and priority registration.

There are nine staff members total in CSD.

Ash Flackus, a third-year registered student with CSD, was unaware about the lack of accommodations for remote learning.

“People’s lives are at risk,” Flackus said. “We cannot keep going back to school as if everything is normal; it is not normal or safe.”

Due to the Omicron variant being more transmissible, disabled, chronically ill and immunocompromised students are more at risk to get infected, according to the Center of Disease Control.

“It’s an isolating experience to live in fear knowing that a mild case is not likely with my immune system, and on top of that how unwilling professors are to make online accommodations for their classes, which in the long run only encourages ill students to come to class,” Keller said..

DePaul requires that all students submit all proof of a Covid-19 booster shot by March 1. In the meantime, disabled, chronically ill and immunocompromised students are hesitant to remain in person.

“By DePaul not requiring boosters until March 1, and cases rising and rising each passing day, chronically ill and physically disabled students will be at an even higher risk,” Flackus said. “Without the accommodations to stay online, DePaul could be risking people’s lives.”

Keller said she wanted to see DePaul mandate the booster before any return to campus. Other Chicago schools like Northwestern University are requiring a booster by the end of January.

“Overall, I think it’s a disheartening time to be an immunocompromised student at DePaul,” Keller said. “I desperately wished DePaul would have mandated the booster before we all arrived on campus because you truly have no clue who has it and who doesn’t even though it is such a necessary form of protection against this increased variant.”

However, individual professors are making an effort to provide accommodations.

“My microbiology professor let any of us who chose not to go in person to decide to stay online if we wanted [or] needed to,” Flackus said.

The CSD will continue to offer remote services for students amid the pandemic.

“This population continues to grow and is one in which we will all find ourselves as we become older,” Moorehead said. “Thus, developing our programming, curricula and facilities with that population in mind increases the opportunity for students with disabilities to fully participate in the life of the university, and contribute to the learning and co-curricular experiences that are all part of a DePaul education.”

DePaul has reported more than 80 on-campus cases of Covid-19 since Jan. 3.

“I’m disappointed with that decision as well, seeing as disabled students are just as important to the school as non-disabled students and deserve accommodations,” Flackus said.