Twenty-seven members of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College have signed onto a letter to the BC community urging the administration to suspend all in-person classes in light of the novel coronavirus outbreak. The letter was delivered to Vice President for Student Affairs Joy Moore and Associate Vice President of Student Engagement and Formation Tom Mogan before being published on the UGBC Facebook page.
The letter, released on Tuesday, cited inaction by the University as contrary to its Jesuit beliefs. It was signed by Michael Osaghae, UGBC president and MCAS ’20; Tiffany Brooks, UGBC vice president and MCAS ’21; and 25 of the 33 members of the UGBC Senate.
UGBC founded the Coronavirus Emergency Task Force last Thursday in hopes of pushing the administration to have more transparent dialogue relating to the response to the outbreak, but the task force has been excluded from conversations surrounding BC’s response, the letter said.
Much of the letter advocates for a switch to online-only instruction for all classes—referencing a similar petition that has been circulating in the BC community. The petition has gathered 2,875 signatures as of publication and drew a response from Moore, who said on Monday that in-person classes will continue but that online classes are being discussed as an option.
Despite rumors of upcoming class closures and possible coronavirus cases on campus, BC said on Tuesday that it has not made the decision to move classes online and that there have been no reported cases of the virus at BC.
Boston health officials said Tuesday that there are 18 presumptive cases of coronavirus in Boston and one confirmed case.
As of Tuesday, there were 92 reported coronavirus cases in Massachusetts—70 of which originate from a conference held by the biotech company Biogen in late February—prompting Governor Charlie Baker to declare a state of emergency at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
The UGBC letter also called on the broader BC community to push back against xenophobia. A previous Senate resolution, passed on Feb. 6, addressed anxiety that Asian students have felt as a result of racist comments and advocated for the allocation of specific mental health resources to meet their needs.
Several other colleges and universities in Massachusetts have moved to online classes and have asked or ordered students to leave campus, or given students the option not return to campus. Harvard University, MIT, Emerson College, and Tufts University are among the Massachusetts schools that have made the move to online classes.
The UGBC letter noted that while the virus may not pose a large threat to college students in terms of morbidity, students could still act as carriers to more vulnerable populations such as elderly or immunocompromised faculty, staff, and visitors. It also noted that students who leave campus for nursing or education practica or service placements could place the greater Boston community at risk.
The letter closed with a call for the University to implement social distancing measures such as online classes and allow faculty and staff to work from home, as well as to consider the needs of international and low-income students.
“As a Catholic, Jesuit university, we have an ethical responsibility to act in the best interest of those around us and respond to COVID-19 with compassion,” the letter said.
Featured Image by Maggie DiPatri / Heights Editor