Sickout garners over 500 pledges despite scrutiny from campus community


Students at Iowa State and the University of Iowa arranged a “sickout” for Sept. 15.

Kylee Haueter

Iowa State’s “sickout” received mixed reactions from the Iowa State community, although it succeeded in gathering over 500 pledges.

Of the 513 pledges, 243 were students at Iowa State. Another 257 were from the University of Iowa, 12 were from the University of Northern Iowa and one person from Kirkwood Community College.

Nearly 80 percent of the pledges were from undergraduate students.

University leaders still declined to comment on the event, but Angela Hunt, media relations coordinator for Iowa State, said the university has worked hard to figure out a plan that works for everyone and allows those who wish to stay off campus to do so.

A survey conducted by the Iowa State Daily earlier this semester found that out of 384 responses, 54 percent or 209 respondents said Iowa State should go online.

Mark Kargol, assistant professor of teaching in the College of Design, said the classes currently being taught in person are the classes that require hands-on work and experience.

“I am teaching three design studios this fall and they are all in person,” he said. “This is because of the subject matter that requires a significant amount of individual communication, demonstration and hands-on work. Through these classes students practice presenting, offering critique of work and discussion of different ways to apply their ideas.”

Kargol also said it is important that students learn the culture of the school they are attending.

“Most of the classes that can be taught online effectively have already been moved online,” he said. “The ones that are in person are in person because that is the most effective way to teach those courses.

“My desire is for the students to get the absolute most out of their time at ISU and that is made much more difficult to accomplish online with certain subjects. I have had many students tell me ‘thank you’ for having classes face to face.”

Colton Lilleholm, junior marketing major, said online classes would make it extremely difficult for him to effectively learn.

“I personally learn better in the classroom and struggle with keeping motivated online,” Lilleholm said. “I also struggle to grasp videos compared to in-person lectures, making things difficult for me over the past two semesters and my grades sadly reflect it. If we switch entirely online I worry I will not be able to bring my GPA up and possibly not graduate on time because of learning complications. I also have terrible electrical luck, and my laptop is far from top of the line.”

Sophomore in financial counseling and planning Michael Bryant said he believes the sickout is a fantastic idea and will send a necessary message.

“We are using our power as a group to send an important message to Wendy, the ISU administration and the Board of Regents that we don’t want to die or spread a potentially fatal disease to our loved ones, professors and the community as a whole in Ames,” Bryant said.

“Students should be the only reason Wendy has a job, not her ability to drum up donations to grow Iowa State’s hedge fund,” Bryant said. “If the Board of Regents and ISU’s administration refuse to move school online, it will be even more apparent that they care more about making money than the lives of their students.”

Bryant also said this provides university leadership with an opportunity.

“This is their opportunity to show us who they are and what they value,” he said. “I do think that it will make a difference. If we come across in a united voice that says we don’t want to die or kill others then they will have to listen.”

Another financial counseling and planning major, senior Laura Emery, had a different opinion about the sickout.

“Iowa State students have the ability to take their classes completely online if they so choose,” she said. “If a student is not given that option, they can submit an accommodation request with Student Accessibility Services. Faculty have been given the same options, and to my knowledge, the university has been extremely flexible with allowing faculty to work remotely.”

Emery said she believes it is illogical for students to ignore the ability to take classes remotely but demand the university goes completely online.

“That robs the students who feel safe on campus and who want to continue their education in person of the opportunity to do so,” she said.

She also said she does not believe the sickout will change anything.

“Most students, faculty and community members have been very clear about their positions on ISU being in person, and I’m sure the university administration is well aware of the contentious debate about this,” Emery said. “At the end of the day, Iowa State wants its money and will do anything to keep the revenue coming in.”

Students and parents also took to social media to express their feelings regarding the sickout, the majority saying that many classes are already online and those that feel unsafe on campus should just stick with online classes.

One parent commented on Facebook, saying her son “better have been in class.”

Many others brought up the fact they are paying tuition for in-person classes and do not want to pay full tuition for online classes.

Tuesday was the final day to receive a refund on tuition and Iowa State put a note in the “U-bill” section of AccessPlus that says “2020-21 Tuition and Mandatory Fees will apply regardless of the method of instruction, including in the event instruction occurs remotely or in alternative formats for any part of the academic year. Tuition and Mandatory Fees will not be refunded in the event instruction occurs remotely or in alternative formats.”

This demonstration comes the day after Iowa State, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa announced adjusted spring semester schedules including delayed starting dates and the elimination of spring break.