Keep Clark University Remote

Keep Clark University Remote

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Charles Tall started this petition to Clark University Administration

*The language in this petition was updated on Friday, August 7, 2020.*

*An additional demand to allow for students in extraordinary circumstances to return to campus has been added on Saturday, August 8, 2020.*

*Additional comments have been added to express concerns the impact on international students and other students that depend on Clark housing.*


Dear Clark University’s administration,

Members of the Clark community demand the administration to rescind their decision to host in-person classes this fall, and instead host classes remotely. This means that most students will not return to campus, with few exceptions. As Princeton committed to doing in their August 7th letter announcing their decision to go remote, Clark should take their lead and “accommodate on campus those students whose situations make it extremely difficult or impossible for them to return to or study from home,” as well as a limited amount of students who “need to be on campus for specific aspects of their senior thesis research or other work essential to their degree programs.” Likewise, we are deeply concerned about how the decision to go remote, either before or during the semester, will impact international students; the lack of transparency on this issue is upsetting. There are many reasons that a student may depend on housing and Clark's administration must work with these students to create the best solution to keep every student safe and healthy. 

As it stands, asking us to return to campus will put all of our lives at-risk--students, faculty, and staff alike. The risk of death for even one person should be enough to ensure Clark does not reopen in-person this fall. We are ashamed that the school is willingly putting its students, faculty, and staff in danger. Below, you will find the reasons as to why we demand Clark hold online classes in the fall.


1. You refuse to take responsibility for our health.

While the Clark Commitment acknowledges the inevitability of illness, it fails to mention that once contracted, there is no guarantee of recovery. Clark’s failure to openly mention this is unacceptable. To compound this horror, you are asking members of the Clark community to sign a document placing the responsibility of our health on ourselves and each other. Let us call this document what it actually is: a liability waiver disguised as a friendly pledge. If the administration is willing to put us all at risk, then at least take responsibility for it when our friends and instructors get sick or die. You must prepare to pay for our medical bills; you must prepare to pay for our funerals; you must prepare to justify why you voluntarily let us contract COVID-19.


2. You are substantially compounding an already worsening pandemic.

We understand that the administration made the original decision based on results from a survey conducted early on into the pandemic. Now that we are closer to the start of the semester, the pandemic has unfolded more fully and horribly. If we closed schools at 4,000 cases nationwide, we should not be reopening in-person at 4.89 million cases as of August 7, 2020. 

According to worcesterma.gov‘s July 30th update: “This week’s numbers, like the week prior, indicate a substantial increase in the number of new COVID-positive cases in Worcester, and represent a concerning trend in the wrong direction.” Bringing thousands of students from all over the world into what is effectively a one-square block petri dish can only, and will inevitably, make things worse. As Clark University is located in the middle of a community composed largely of low-income households and communities of color in Main South – a community that we have already played a large role in gentrifying – this decision puts our larger, vulnerable community at risk.


3. You are unprepared to take responsibility for the health of the Main South community.

Making us sign the Clark Commitment implicitly denies us the right to attend protests which have played an integral role in creating change throughout the country. Black Lives Matter protests will continue throughout the semester, and you are forcing us to choose between adhering to the Clark Commitment and attending these protests. Many of us will choose the latter, and we would like to point out that this will make effective contact tracing nearly impossible. This would require you to take responsibility for the health of community members including providing free testing for the whole Main South community at the very least, not just Clark. However, since you refuse to even take responsibility for our health by requiring us to sign a liability waiver, we see this as being highly unlikely.


4. You have misled the community into believing you are covering the costs of pre-arrival testing for the majority of students returning to campus.

We are uncomfortable that Clark is excluding 80% of domestic students – a number composed only of the students who live within Massachusetts and its seven nearest states – from pre-arrival testing. If, as President Fithian wrote in an email addressed to the Clark Community on July 13th, Clark University is interested in facilitating “the safest possible return to in-person classes,” their decision to test the least amount of students recommended by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is in direct contradiction to this commitment. By not making it clear that your pre-arrival testing plans only cover 20% of domestic students, you are hindering our ability to make an informed decision about whether or not we feel safe returning to campus. Additionally, it is unfair that Clark is requiring but will not be paying for the pre-arrival testing of international students. 


5. You have yet to decide fundamental conditions for our safety—i.e. when to send us home—indicating a distinct lack of forethought.

We find it appalling that you have yet to decide under what conditions to transition to online classes with only a few weeks until the semester begins. This decision cannot be an afterthought and demonstrates gross disregard for our well being. You have stated that if quarantine housing fills up, you will pursue alternative housing options. Should that not be a sign that too many students are getting sick? We wonder how many deaths or cases will be enough for the campus to close. We would like to know how many of our friends and instructors need to contract the disease or die before you decide it is too many. We want an exact number so we know you have, at the very least, considered it. The absence of a clear answer to this urges us to question whether or not you have thoroughly planned for the semester and whether or not you intend to keep us on campus at all.


6. Under the current conditions, bringing students to campus feels like a way to get as much money out of us as possible.

As the semester approaches and the pandemic worsens, it appears inevitable that we will transition to online classes mid-semester, and most likely earlier rather than later. With this likelihood, we are profoundly confused as to why you are willing to put us in this danger if not for the reason of financial gain. We understand that Clark has already spent a large sum of money to protect us, but bringing us to campus while expecting us to be sent home before the semester is over feels like a way to get as much money out of us as possible, especially since you have made it incredibly unclear to students that our tuition will remain the same for the remainder of the semester. In other words, bringing us to campus to collect our tuition when you expect to send us home is putting profit over people. 

Additionally, the July 13th statement about fall reopening did not make it explicitly clear that tuition would NOT be reduced or refunded in the event in-person classes move online during the semester. By not making this explicitly clear, you hinder students’ abilities to make the most informed choices for themselves. The Healthy Clark website states that if “campus reopens as planned and Clark is later forced to close campus later in the semester, tuition will not be reduced.” We wonder what precisely “later” means. We wonder what happens if an unexpected number of students test positive during the first round of testing or within the first few weeks. We wonder if you will still keep our money even though we only attended, for example, two classes.


7. At this point in time, returning to campus is not what we want.

You claim the decision is not based on money, but the only alternative reason you provide is based on a survey conducted months ago when the state of the pandemic looked far different to what it does today. We would like to make it clear that we also prefer not to be in the middle of a global pandemic, but we are. You credit us with this decision, but we refuse to take the blame. You made this decision, and you can fix it. We would love to return to campus when it is safe, but for now, please understand that some people’s preference to go to school is not worth the lives of our peers. 


Final thoughts.

You have told us the decision is not based on money, but have failed to adequately justify the decision otherwise.

You have given us the false assurance that taking a gap semester is an option, when it is actually a privilege, not a universality.

You have told us that our health and safety is your highest priority, but your actions contradict your mission.

Do the right thing and move the semester entirely online, and do it before the semester starts. Any later will be putting profit over people.


— Members of the Clark Community


Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/cases-in-us.html

http://www.worcesterma.gov/announcements/covid-19-update-for-july-30-5-502-cases

https://www.clarku.edu/campus-reopening-questions/pre-arrival/#pre-arrival-testing-and-quarantine

https://www.princeton.edu/news/2020/08/07/fall-2020-update-undergraduate-education-be-fully-remote

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