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URBANA — The University of Illinois has reinstated a student who had been dismissed for one year for not submitting to COVID-19 testing during the fall semester, according to the Graduate Employees’ Organization.

After exhausting appeals for Ivor Chen, a fourth-year physics Ph.D. student from China, the graduate-student union had launched a public campaign to have him reinstated. It also filed a grievance on his behalf.

The petition had more than 18,000 signatures as of Wednesday.

In an update Wednesday, the union said the Senate Committee for Student Discipline met Tuesday and reduced Chen’s punishment by suspending his dismissal indefinitely and putting him on conduct probation until graduation.

“This is not the best result one can hope for, but it is something I can swallow,” Chen said in a statement posted to the petition.

He encouraged the UI to adopt a more “transparent and humane COVID-19 policy.”

“UIUC has distinguished itself as a national leader in controlling the spread of COVID-19. Strict enforcement of student conduct violations has been an essential element of this success,” he said. “But it is equally important that the university maintains its commitment to a just and nuanced student conduct system in which the punishment fits the violation.”

Chen had been staying at his home with his mother and only going out for essential activities, according to the petition. Chen thought he was in compliance and didn’t realize he needed an exemption, GEO representatives said.

The GEO also called for a review into the discipline process used for Chen and others. UI spokeswoman Robin Kaler did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Citing privacy laws, UI officials have declined to comment specifically on Chen’s case but defended the COVID-19 procedures.

“The procedure affords students due process, including the right to a written notice of charges, the opportunity to have a hearing with an adviser present, the right to present evidence and testimony and the right to appeal a disciplinary action,” Provost Andreas Cangellaris said earlier this week. “Decisions to sanction students are not made lightly, nor without warning.”

He also noted the testing requirements are in place for a reason: “The safety, health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff and the greater community, especially during the pandemic, is our number one priority.”

Before the semester, Dean of Students Stephen Bryan said in a virtual news conference that 50 students had been dismissed so far from the UI.

Reporter

Ben Zigterman is a reporter covering business at The News-Gazette. His email is bzigterman@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@bzigterman).

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