CHAMPAIGN — Mark your calendars for April 14-17, 2021, movie buffs.
That’s the new date of Ebertfest 22 at the Virginia Theatre — bumped back by one year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Thursday’s announcement came a day after the University of Illinois announced that all school-sponsored events that draw crowds bigger than 50 people would be suspended indefinitely, effective today.
“I love everything about Ebertfest, as did our co-founder, my late husband Roger,” Chaz Ebert said Thursday. “The audience and our filmmakers help make our festival so special and so beautiful that it hurts to cancel it, but we must put concern for health and welfare foremost.”
Organizers said the Virginia Theatre would help coordinate reimbursements for fans who bought festival passes and couldn’t make the 2021 event but added that they hoped fans would hold onto their passes for next year.
Meanwhile, UI officials were still figuring out the financial implications of the week’s biggest on-campus development — the news that, after today, face-to-face classes would be canceled, instead taught online or “via alternative delivery approaches.”
The campus has a week-plus to prepare for that transition — spring break begins after classes today.
“We’re gonna be meeting again in about an hour to start to address some of those financial issues because you know that’s at the top of the mind of some people — and you can’t blame ’em,” UI Chancellor Robert Jones said after Thursday’s UI trustees meeting. “But we will work through each and every one of these issues. So I can’t tell you we’re going to prorate or what we’ve got to do but they will be addressed.”
Campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler said those details could take some time to work out.
Jones said officials are still working out the details of how some classes will move online or to alternate methods.
“Everything can’t be delivered online,” he said. “What about the studio arts people? What about the performing arts folks? What about the research that goes on in the lab? What about the clinicals.
“So we had a lot to think through, and it’s still a work in progress. We don’t have all of it figured out.”
Jones attended Thursday’s trustees meeting, where administrators elbow-bumped each other instead of shaking hands.
Jones said the next week-and-a-half will be focused on how to implement online education, as well as how to provide food and shelter to students who choose to stay on campus.
But he insisted that the quality of education will remain the same, no matter how the classes are taught.
“Anybody that’s graduating or enrolled ... is not going to get a watered-down education during the duration of this face-to-face being canceled because we’ve been doing online education for a long time and all the data clearly shows that it’s as effective — and in some cases, perhaps even more effective than face to face,” he said.
The UI’s switch to online classes followed similar moves by other Big Ten schools.
Jones said the decision wasn’t made lightly.
“I just can’t declare this in isolation from the rest of the colleges within the University of Illinois System. And you have to work with the governor’s office. You have to work with the system office,” he said.
“You just don’t flick a switch. And so that’s the reason that it may appear that this was not done as fast as it should have been done. But I think we proceeded with abundance of care and abundance of caution.”
At one point Thursday, Jones struggled to describe the nature of the unprecedented decision.
“You can’t rush the decision to make one of the most — is draconian the right word? — decisions in the history of this university,” he said. “You don’t do it without a lot of reflection and playing scenarios in your head and going back and forth.”