U Students Respond to Another In-person Semester with New Protocols and Rising Cases


Kevin Cody

Students in Art 3755 working in the photo studio for the first time this semester. The images were taken in the photo studio located in the art building in Salt Lake City, Utah on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022 (Photo by Kevin Cody | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Carlene Coombs, News Editor


Amid rising COVID-19 cases in Utah, University of Utah students return to in-person classes for the Spring 2022 semester.

On Saturday, Jan. 15, the Salt Lake Tribune reported Utah’s average daily COVID-19 case rates per 100,000 people to be the fourth highest in the country.

Anna Bell, a non-traditional student studying data science, said her classrooms are extremely full, with little social distancing, which she finds concerning.

“My biggest concern however, is for other students, especially students with disabilities, or people who are immunocompromised because I don’t think people are taking this seriously,” Bell said.

Bell decided to take action by creating a petition advocating for live-streaming options for students. As of Jan. 18, her petition has 525 signatures.

McKaiden Carruth, a junior studying neurobiology, said because the U is a “city within a city,” she is concerned about the impact students could have on the local community and hospitals.

“As an academic institution that is known for our medical programs, are we holding up to our obligation to be a higher and an above and beyond example, as we should be?” Carruth said.

Rebecca Walsh, associate director of communications at the U, wrote in an email interview that Utah state law requires the university to provide 75% of classes in-person during the Spring 2022 semester. This percentage is based on the number of in-person classes at the end of January 2020.

Walsh shared that instructional guidelines for the semester have empowered deans and department chairs to work with instructors who have had confirmed exposures in their classrooms. These guidelines allow a shift to virtual operations for a short time, based on guidance from the U Health contact tracing team.

Walsh added these classes must return to in-person after the quarantine and isolation period has passed.

Additionally, students may request temporary attendance adjustments through the Center for Disability & Access.

According to the Spring 2022 Instructional Guidelines, classes classified in the schedule as “in-person” must host live classes at the scheduled time in the assigned classroom. Faculty are provided discretion on providing options like live-streaming or class recordings.

Bell said she believes many professors haven’t received adequate interpretation of recent state legislation from administration on what accommodations can be provided to students. Bell said she emailed her professors to inform them they can provide live-streaming who were unaware of this option.

“Faculty don’t know what liberties they do have,” Bell said. “I think a lot of faculty care about student wellness, and they really want to offer online options, but they are not being educated by administration on a department and university level that they’re allowed to do that.”

On Jan. 7, the U released updated COVID-19 guidelines, including weekly testing and vaccination requirements. In eight locations on campus, students can pick up self-serve COVID-19 tests and drop them back off at any time.

Additionally, U students will need to receive COVID-19 booster shots or an exemption to remain in compliance with the COVID-19 vaccination policy.

With the Utah State Legislature overturning Salt Lake County’s mask order on Friday, masks are no longer required on the U’s campus. Still, Walsh stated the U will continue to encourage mask-wearing “during periods of high transmission when in buildings or in large groups of people outdoors.”

Utah state law currently prohibits higher education institutions from requiring face coverings on campus.

The U encourages students who are unvaccinated and exposed or test positive for COVID-19 to follow the 5-5-5 rule. This includes isolating for five days, getting tested five days after the initial result and masking around others for five days after that.

Carruth shared she appreciates the measures taken by the U, particularly the self-service testing, but feels adjustments are often necessary considering the current state of the pandemic.

“We do need to have more online options … for students to access a live class if they need to miss due to sickness or exposures, so they don’t need to get behind [and] professors don’t have to struggle with the juggle game of trying to rehash old information,” Carruth said.


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