Provide Remote Learning Options at Austin College

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Provide Remote Learning Options at Austin College

This petition made change with 183 supporters!
Alexandra Molzan started this petition to Austin College and

In his latest email regarding COVID-19 concerns for Fall 2020, President Steven P. O’Day said that we will be returning to campus for all in-person classes. The email gave the clear impression that there has been no consideration for remote or hybrid style learning. This implies that no planning has ensued on the administration’s end to provide these possibilities. 

Firstly, President O’Day presented the argument in his most recent email to students that “the disease presents minimal risk to otherwise healthy college age students.”  This statement is problematic as it is ableist and idealized: it excludes immunocompromised students who could fall seriously ill or worse. Many students like myself want to have the choice to opt out of on-campus learning simply because we are in a global pandemic, this should not be a point of contention or require medical proof. Providing hybrid and remote only learning would be a safer and logical approach as we would have a smaller capacity of students on campus.

President O’Day claimed in the email “99.9% of those without underlying health conditions in the age groups of 10-19 and 20-29 who have contracted the disease, are either asymptomatic or recover from the illness.” By stating college students are usually asymptomatic as an attempt to dilute the severity of a global pandemic is paradoxical and dangerous. 

The nature of a college campus, regardless of how social distancing policies are enforced, is one of interwoven social groups. By seemingly inviting all students to campus the president is inviting a potential super-spreading event. This has been seen to have happened in Harvard during the H1N1 epidemic (1). Going back to campus provides moderate benefits to students, whereas working class staff and older faculty will feel the deleterious effects of this short sighted plan (2). 

SARS-Cov-2 spreads 18 times more in a closed environment (dorms and classrooms) than outdoors, a classroom can be a death sentence (3). “A virus’s ability to infect is not entirely a property of that pathogen, it’s a property of how the virus and human society interact,” according to Christopher Moore, a computer scientist at the Santa Fe Institute who models virus-spreading events (4). 

SARS-Cov-2 is especially dangerous, no amount of sanitizing will prevent social gatherings, especially considering Greek life on campus (5). Indoor and indoor-outdoor gatherings contribute to 80% or more of all coronavirus cases worldwide (6). The CDC also tells us that the lowest risk option for universities is all virtual learning, it would only make sense to provide this option firstly for students who need it and secondly for anyone who chooses it (7). 

At this point in a pandemic where the US, and now Texas, are leading in deaths and cases due to SARS-Cov-2 any risk is not a risk worth taking (8). President O’Day and administration should make hybrid and remote learning options for ALL students for the sake of our health and well-being. 


References

  1. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0012948#s2
  2. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/29/business/college-campus-coronavirus-danger.html
  3. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.02.28.20029272v2
  4. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-superspreading-events-drive-most-covid-19-spread1/
  5. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/367/6483/1260
  6. https://wellcomeopenresearch.org/articles/5-83
  7. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/colleges-universities/considerations.html
  8. https://txdshs.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/ed483ecd702b4298ab01e8b9cafc8b83

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