Immunocompromised student speaks out against course delivery policy Sunday, Jan 16 2022 

By Madelin Shelton — 

A psychology graduate student at U of L wants flexibility in the university’s course delivery policy and her message has gone viral.

Madison Shannon was hospitalized from Jan. 9 to Jan. 15 with complications from an open-heart surgery she underwent Dec. 17.

Shannon posted an email correspondence with U of L Interim President Lori Gonzalez to her Instagram and Facebook pages, and she said it has been shared over 200 times and has received more than 1,900 likes.

She discussed her experience post-surgery. “It was a very scary experience, and it was overwhelming as well. I was delirious,” she said. Shannon thought she was going to die from the complications.

Shannon describes herself as medically complex. She was born with aortic stenosis, a congenital heart defect which results in reduced or blocked blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. She also has Turner syndrome, a rare chromosomal disorder that affects only females in which one of the X chromosomes is missing or partially missing. Shannon has had three open-heart surgeries.

On Jan. 9, Shannon sent an email to Gonzalez in response to a U of L update reiterating the university’s decision to continue the Spring semester in-person.

Shannon’s email criticized the university’s decision regarding its course delivery policy. “The way that the university has handle the COVID situation has been completely disappointing and inaccessible. I understand being concerned about academic performance and mental well-being of students, but some of the students, faculty, and staff are concerned about our livelihood,” she said.

“I am so sorry to hear about you health issue. I wish you a quick recovery. Take care,” Gonzalez responded.

Shannon was deeply disappointed by Gonzalez’s response. “It felt like ‘okay that’s your problem, that’s not a problem as a university.’ Whereas I feel like it is a university problem. A lot of people expect young 20-year-olds and teenagers to be relatively healthy but that’s not always the case and, you know, I’m the perfect example of that,” she said. “I feel like we’re not being seen as people, we’re not being seen at all honestly.”

In defending the course delivery policy, the university has cited the 91 percent vaccination rate of the U of L community, but Shannon argues that is not enough.

She is fully vaccinated, but not boosted because of the issues it could pose for her currently weakened immune system. Her doctors are also concerned about the toll COVID-19 would have on her body even with being fully vaccinated, especially three weeks post-op from major surgery.

Shannon acknowledged that mental health and academic performance are important considerations, but she believes there are more crucial factors to consider. “Those are important, but it doesn’t just affect everyone that little. It affects people in much bigger ways, like my livelihood. I would prefer to live.”

Shannon has received permission to conduct her classes virtually until February given her current health situation and the need for a mandated quarantine period post-hospital stay. However, to her understanding she is expected to attend class in-person after that point.

Shannon belongs to the United Campus Workers, a group composed of campus workers from across Kentucky. Along with United Campus Workers, Shannon is asking for the option of online instruction for both faculty and students and more stringent COVID-19 prevention strategies. The organization created a petition for these initiatives that has amassed over 1,500 signatures.

The Louisville Cardinal reached out to the university for further comment and none was given.

Photo Courtesy // Madison Shannon

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