Students for CHOICE, a newly-formed and student-led organization, hosted a protest on both Monday, Jan. 31 and Wednesday, Feb. 2. The group is fighting for choice at Western Washington University when it comes to class modality, urging for both online and in-person options in order to accommodate students who feel unsafe coming to class.
The acronym “CHOICE” stands for coalition of home/offline individual choice and equity, according to the organization's Instagram page.
“Not all professors are offering the same options,” fourth-year Madilynn Fullmer said. “Some professors are offering online while others aren’t.”
Fullmer is an at-risk student with preexisting conditions, and she is urging administration to take her, and other at-risk students, worries into account.
“I have one class in the Humanities Building that has 20 people, and it’s offered online, and I have another class right afterward that has 40 people in that same classroom, and it’s not offering any online options,” she said. “It’s not equitable at all, especially for people who are at-risk like me.”
Vemund Aaro, another member of Students for CHOICE, created a Change.org petition that has received over 750 signatures.
The petition lays out the demands of these students, including multimodal online learning options for all classes and that educators be given proper training, compensation and full administrative support to ensure multimodal options are available.
Western President Sabah Randhawa has been receiving a great deal of backlash due to this controversy. Several members of Students for CHOICE attended the “Talk with President Sabah” in the Viking Union on Feb. 2 and expressed their concerns to him.
“I’m a daughter to two people over 65 with preexisting conditions; my mom is chronically ill and disabled, and my dad has high blood pressure,” said third-year Cassidy Olsen during the forum. “I also have many aunts and uncles and other family members who are over 65 or have preexisting conditions.”
Outside of Western, Olsen is a physical therapy aide and a school mentor for Ferndale High School. She emphasized to Randhawa that with the added exposure of attending in-person classes, she is putting several families at risk of contracting COVID-19.
“This is just my story,” Olsen said. “I’m one of thousands of people here on campus. I feel like in being here and telling you this, I can be a voice for the disabled people who can’t be here or don’t feel comfortable being here.”
After the talk with Randhawa, members gathered outside the Viking Union to host their second protest. Both protests had a turnout of about a dozen members, with others joining them via Zoom.
“It wasn’t many because most of us are at risk or anxious about COVID-19,” Fullmer said. “But there were definitely enough that we got a lot of word out.”
Isabella Loy (she/her) is one of two copy editors for The Front this quarter. She's a fourth-year transfer student majoring in news/ed journalism with a concentration in Religious Studies. She has also worked on publications at her community college and at Western's magazine, Klipsun. You can reach her at email@example.com.