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URBANA — The Graduate Employees’ Organization is again petitioning the University of Illinois to reinstate a grad student dismissed for not taking COVID-19 tests.

Two months after international grad student Ivor Chen was reinstated following a GEO petition, a new petition is seeking to reinstate Antonio Ruiz, a fourth-year Ph.D. student.

As of Monday afternoon, more than 2,100 people had signed the petition.

According to the GEO, Ruiz didn’t get tested in the fall because of a disability that makes him unable to take the UI’s saliva test.

On March 25, Ruiz was dismissed for one year and issued a trespass notification, which effectively evicts him from University Housing, according to the petition.

Ruiz was not available for an interview, but GEO representative Becca Maree said the UI’s Office for Student Conflict Resolution should be more consistent and empathetic in how it handles COVID-19 discipline cases.

“We’re asking that the university, if they are going to carry out disciplines, that they make them consistent,” Maree said, “but also that the OSCR board is more empathetic when they are speaking with students and grad workers about their cases.”

Citing student privacy law, UI spokeswoman Robin Kaler said she couldn’t comment on this particular case but defended the disciplinary process in a statement.

“The student disciplinary procedure affords students due process, including the right to written notice of charges, the opportunity for a hearing with an advisor present, the right to present evidence and testimony and the right to appeal a disciplinary action,” she said.

“Cases and appeals in which a student faces separation from the university are heard and decided by a panel of students, faculty and staff,” Kaler added.

“Students are well informed of their rights, responsibilities and options throughout the process.”

According to the petition, Ruiz acknowledged that he wasn’t compliant with his testing when he received a disciplinary notice last October that placed him on probation.

He later applied for a testing exemption, according to the GEO, but was denied it because he lives on campus.

On March 9, he received a second disciplinary notice, the petition said.

The petition claims that not until this second notice was Ruiz made aware of the nasal swab alternative available to students unable to use the saliva test.

Kaler said that accommodation has been available the entire academic year, though the GEO said it wasn’t mentioned in a mass email until mid-March.

Ruiz is now taking the nasal swab test twice a week, the petition says.

Ruiz met with the OSCR March 25, when his punishment was handed down, according to the petition.

The sanctions were appealed April 1, and his appeal was denied Friday, Maree said.

Ruiz now has 30 days to leave University Housing, the petition says.

Maree said that while punishments may be warranted in some cases, “for a case such as this, it really doesn’t warrant the type of punishment that’s being served.”

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