Western Illinois University Interim President Martin Abraham stopped by the Western Courier office last week for a chat with the staff regarding all the happenings of the semester.
As the semester comes to an end, Abraham said that Spring will likely be the same in terms of the rules and regulations on campus in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. Events will still be limited in attendance and will require both masks and social distancing. All of this is subject to change as news regarding the pandemic and a vaccine emerge and change. He said, “There is a plan if we have to go fully remote in the Spring, but as of now the semester is still set to be in person.” There will be no Spring break this year, but there may be a few days off to help alleviate the stress of a semester without a break.
Abraham shared with the staff that he is no scientist and reads the same news that we do but that he remains hopeful that COVID-19 will come to an end. If he had to predict a timeline of when progress will be made with a vaccine for the pandemic, he would say that some progress would be made in Summer 2021. Executive Director of Communications Darcie Shinberger said that her experiences working in communication for the University during the time of influenza A virus subtype H1N1 and Mumps have helped her in regards to handling the media and publicity regarding the pandemic, but that nothing like COVID-19 has really been seen before.
In terms of other happenings at the University, Abraham spoke on the conversations being had with students after the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in the past few months. He said that he is hopeful regarding progress with an African American Studies major, a Women’s Studies minor as well as the introduction of Queer Studies and Hispanic Studies programs. While students are interested in the idea of adding diversity education courses to the required curriculum, Abraham is not sure if this will be able to be successfully executed. He said, “I am supportive of incorporating into our general education curriculum a course regarding diversity and diversity challenges. That may be a hard sell. Everytime we add something, we have to take something out of other areas. Faculty develop general education courses and what they are as well as some level of control by the state. It is not impossible, but it is going to be very difficult.” There has also been a policy change implemented by the University regarding hate speech and the lack of tolerance Western Illinois will have for it.