News recently broke that Purdue will be requiring students wishing to go online for the spring semester to show “significant” changes in personal circumstances, such as medical concerns, family health, financial situations or visa restrictions. This requires students to rely on extenuating circumstances to justify protecting themselves and others.

Before Fall 2020, no justification was needed to start the semester virtually. It was also unclear that the commitment to go online or come to class in-person applied to the full academic year, not just the fall term.

Now the new rules make it more difficult for students to make decisions that are right for their safety, security and education.

The University’s timing could not have been worse: local and national coronavirus numbers are rapidly increasing, not leveling off. It took Tippecanoe County nearly five months (March-August) to reach our first 1,000 cases. As of now (11/10), we’ve had 946 new cases just in the last week. Not to mention the quarter-million Americans (including about 5,000 Hoosiers) who have died from COVID-19.

Seeing similar numbers, peer institutions such as the University of Michigan have instructed students who don’t need to return to campus to go online next term.

Why is Purdue running in the opposite direction?

There’s no way for our students to predict what sort of medical or family issues they might encounter in the next seven months. Purdue must make it easier—not harder—for students to go online if they need to.

It is more important now than ever for the administration to improve, not restrict, access to an online education option for everyone who wants it.

— Sean Flannery, graduate student in computer science

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