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SIU Carbondale chancellor says university could return to in-person learning this fall
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SIU Carbondale chancellor says university could return to in-person learning this fall

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CARBONDALE — In a post on his university blog, Southern Illinois University Carbondale Chancellor Austin Lane said things are looking good for a return to majority in-person classes this fall.

SIU has not had routine, in-person classes since March last year when classes were switched to remote online models because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This past fall, the university allowed a hybrid of in-person and online classes as the coronavirus pandemic continued to upend daily life. Lane said the number of in-person offerings this fall and spring were about half of what the university normally offers — 45% in-person as opposed to a typical 80%, he said.

Lane wrote Thursday that there is a real possibility, if COVID-19 numbers remain low, that SIU could return in person this fall.

“Right now, our leadership team is working with faculty, staff and students on a comprehensive Saluki Safety plan that has us returning to normal, provided that we continue to test, wear masks, practice social distancing and stay within the guidelines of the state, county and city,” Lane’s post read.

Speaking with The Southern Friday, Lane said the university is moving ahead like it will return to in-person classes in the fall. But, he said university officials will be keeping a close eye on local and state COVID-19 numbers.

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“All of those things would have to stay like they are today,” Lane said of the metrics for returning to in-person classes. Any rollbacks in state COVID-19 requirements could impact these fall plans.

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“If we went backwards in any given time … we would probably have to revert back to where we were this spring,” Lane said.

Lane said it’s his hope that SIU can again offer 80% of its classes on campus in the fall. However, he said, social distancing will still be practiced in the classrooms and lecture halls. He said if enrollment exceeds what is safe to have in a classroom, then students could be directed to an online option. Lane said space all over campus will be used to make sure classes can be offered safely. This is one advantage, Lane said, of enrollment not being as high as it once was — there is space to spread out. A temporary good, he said, for something he wants to see change.

When asked, Lane said plans for the fall have not required any bargaining with the Faculty Association, which represents tenure-track faculty at the university. Anne Fletcher, FA president, said in an email Friday that should the need arise, the FA would be ready to engage in collective bargaining.

Lane said many have voiced a hope to return to campus this fall — he said it could actually be part of the decision-making for some incoming freshmen and returning students. If done safely, Lane said, “it could make us more attractive.”

In his post, Lane praised efforts made by SIU faculty, staff and students. He said SIU is in a place to possibly return to in-person classes this fall because of the “collective efforts of Salukis.”

isaac.smith@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

On Twitter: @ismithreports

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