Graduate student reinstated after expulsion following violation of COVID-19 protocols

by Shelbi Voss

On February 16, the Senate Committee for Student Discipline met to reevaluate the dismissal of fourth-year PhD student Yidong “Ivor” Chen. Upon reconsideration, Chen’s punishment was reduced and he was readmitted to the university.

Chen was dismissed from the university on January 29 for testing non-compliance. He appealed the discipline, with the support of his department and the Graduate Employees’ Organization but the request was denied. The GEO opened a petition following the repeal denial, which received over 23,000 signatures. The petition called for Chen’s readmission and an investigation into unjust student discipline. Support for his case broke out earlier this month due to concern over his VISA status and the removal of Chen and his mother from the country.

The Senate Committee for Student Discipline adapted Chen’s punishment. The committee decided that the dismissal will be Held in Abeyance/Conduct Probation until graduation, two 1,000 word reflective essays and 25 hours of community service. According to Article II Section 2.10 of the Student Disciplinary Procedures, Dismissal Held in Abeyance means that, although dismissal would be justifiable, certain conditions call for a hold on dismissal from the university. Article II Section 2.10 also states that Conduct Probation means “the student is no longer in good disciplinary standing with the academic community” and that failure to comply with assigned sanctions while on probation should result in suspension or dismissal from the university.

Chen’s dismissal was the result of a misunderstanding about the university’s expectations of his testing schedule, due to his working remotely and sheltering-in-place with his mother in Champaign-Urbana. He was under the impression that, due to his refraining from being on campus and only leaving his home for essential activities, that he was not required to participate in the university testing program. Chen was unaware of the testing exemption process and thus was considered non-compliant with the COVID-19 testing.

For the duration of the Spring semester, Chen will be exempt from testing due to McKinley Health Center accepting his application for exemption.