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Administrator’s Email Criticized For Minimizing Student’s Concerns Over Returning to BC During Pandemic

Students criticized a Boston College administrator’s email to a student last week, saying that it minimized a student’s concerns about traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic as the student inquired about taking online classes. 

David Lee, MCAS ’21, emailed the Office of Student Services on July 16 asking for information about taking all classes online next semester and how it would affect his course schedule and housing status.

“I have been seriously considering completing [the form to appeal for all-online classes] because I am currently not in Massachusetts and feel very uncomfortable flying given the current state of COVID-19 and the risk involved with traveling at this time,” began Lee’s email.

The administrator answered the next morning, responding to Lee’s questions but asking him to confirm why he felt comfortable flying in March but will not in August. Lee had not previously said he felt comfortable flying home in March.

“So you were comfortable flying to wherever you’re writing from during the early stages of the pandemic but won’t feel that same level of comfort flying back returning correct?” read the beginning of the response from the official Student Services email.

He posted part of his email exchange with the administrator on social media, where it gained some traction from students criticizing the University. One student criticized the response as an example of BC not caring about its students.

“BC’s student service is sending out this kind of passive aggressive email to your student,” another student tweeted. “What an irony. And you want to (sic) us to pay $80k for this? lol. Oh, and the tuition was just raised this year too.”

Neither Lee nor Associate Vice President for University Communications Jack Dunn provided The Heights with the identity of the administrator, who has since apologized to Lee.

“My last flight was over 3 months ago,” Lee said in response to the administrator’s initial email. “I do think the circumstances are wildly different right now given how severe the pandemic has become, particularly in the US. I’m not sure what you’re trying to suggest and I’m also not sure how your question is necessary regarding what I’ve asked. I’m honestly shocked that you would try to downplay my concerns during a difficult time like this.”

The University announced that it would be moving the spring semester online on March 11, the day the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic. On March 14, the day before students were required to leave campus, there were 15 new cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts and 520 new cases across the United States. On July 16, the day the administrator sent the email, there were 15 new cases in Massachusetts and 77,000 new cases across the United States.

“COVID-19 has taken over 130,000 lives in the United States,” Lee’s email continued. “Our school’s administration should have a lot more empathy for its students right now. As a Boston College student who has been taught to be a ‘man or woman for others’ I feel your response seriously contradicts our creed/beliefs. I’m rather offended and I’d like to know your name.”

Lee told The Heights that in early March he flew from Boston to San Diego, where he has been working at an internship. California reported 288 new cases on March 14 and over 10,000 new cases on July 16. 

Lee said he was taking a leave of absence from BC for the internship during the spring semester while still living in Boston, but he did not inform the administrator of that in his email. Lee said there was no reason for the administrator to assume he was not a full-time student in the spring and that, like most other BC students, he left Boston in March and is now determining whether to return to Boston in August.

“This person’s response was particularly frustrating and absurd because Boston College kicked students out of dorms and back to their homes when the pandemic began,” Lee said in an email to The Heights. “The fact that they suggest I was ‘comfortable during the early stages’ is ridiculous considering they probably assumed I was part of that process.”

Dunn said that the administrator, who neither he nor Lee named, apologized to Lee.

“The administrator reached out to the student to apologize for the email. These are difficult and stressful times for all, including staff who are working long hours,” Dunn wrote in an email to The Heights. “We hope the student will accept the apology and the administrator’s offer to follow up with him as needed.”

Lee said that he accepts the apology, noting that he hopes that BC takes the COVID-19 pandemic seriously and prioritizes the wellbeing of its students.

“The administrator did send me an apology and as offended and frustrated as I was/am, I can understand why he may have inadvertently acted out of stress during these hectic times,” Lee said to The Heights. “He did make sure to clarify and properly address my original questions and to be fair, he expressed his regret without making any excuses.”

Featured Image by Madeleine Romance / Heights Editor

July 21, 2020