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On Sunday, Professor Emeritus Richard Mohr took UI leaders (“bottomlessly naive”) and students (“bottomlessly evil”) to task over the surge of coronavirus cases on campus. In the interest of equal time, here’s ALI MIRZA — the Urbana campus’ student representative on the UI Board of Trustees — who responded with a guest commentary of his own.


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Ali Mirza, the UI Urbana campus’ student representative on the Board of Trustees, wears his mask outside the Illini Union on Wednesday.

As a student leader, I feel that Dr. Mohr’s guest commentary ignored the efforts of not only University of Illinois students, but the greater university body.

Through its repeated attacks, Dr. Mohr’s commentary promotes the notion that the student body is somehow not a part of, or does not care for, the Champaign-Urbana community. It goes on to draw the conclusion that all students are evil based on the misbehavior of a few.

Regardless of a return-to-on-campus plan, one thing is certain: Come September, thousands of students would be returning to their already-signed apartment leases. Without a doubt, if it were not for the university’s “bottomless naivety,” students would be returning to an uncontrolled environment spreading the coronavirus unknowingly.

Students at the University of Illinois consider Champaign and Urbana their home. We live here, and for four or more years, we are active members of the community here. If you want a metric to define every student at this institution, use the overwhelming majority who contribute to this community in a positive manner.

Whether it stemmed from a misconception that young people are not at a significant risk from COVID-19 or that the university would be shutting down anyway, there has been a small percentage of students who decided not to comply with the policies put forth by the university. Those students have been reprimanded and will continue to be if they display misbehavior.

Their behavior, however, in no way defines the overwhelming majority of students who have gotten the message: socialize safely.

Not only are an overwhelming majority of students following the policies in place, we are holding our peers accountable for their actions; students are reporting noncompliance, following strict guidelines and continuing to test multiple times a week. Especially after last week’s early detection of an increase in COVID-19 cases, which has given us the chance to take preemptive measures — including but not limited to compliance with stricter policies.

The efforts to mitigate the spread of the disease will ultimately be up to students, and the overwhelming majority has been and will continue to rise to the challenge.

By virtue of the efforts undertaken by the SHIELD team, the University of Illinois was given the opportunity to be a national model in how to effectively mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on a college campus. From the vaccine trials at the Chicago campus to the groundbreaking saliva test at the Urbana campus, throughout this pandemic, we have pushed a message of hope.

To extrapolate the behavior of a few and use it to define the character and principle of everyone is nonsensical. Dr. Mohr’s argument has no validity, and the conclusion that all University of Illinois students are evil based on the misbehavior of a handful is nothing short of ridiculous.

Ali Mirza, a senior political science major from Lombard, is the Urbana campus’ student representative on the UI Board of Trustees.