Demand UMD Prioritize Students over Profit in Changing COVID-19 Response Policies

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UMD must take appropriate action to prioritize student safety by changing their housing addendum and policies regarding COVID-19 and hold accountability on their decision towards permitting and allowing entry for students to stay on campus for the upcoming academic year. 

UMD has lost an estimated $80 million due to COVID-19, but this money loss does not necessitate manipulating students and putting their health on the line.

Mary Ann Rankin, the Provost of the University of Maryland, instructed professors, Departments, and Faculty not to release any information about whether or not classes will be in-person or online. This decision is unprofessional and does not give students time to make changes to their schedule in order to take classes in the format that they feel is best for their health and safety. Information about classes being in-person or online needs to be released immediately. 

The Department of Residence Life, on June 30th, released a Housing Addendum that says “In the event of such temporary closures, restrictions, and/or adjustments to the housing services schedule, the University shall not be obligated to issue refunds or credits, whether partial or full, for such interruptions or adjustments” and “In the event that the University reduces and/or stops in-person operations or modifies the academic calendar due to COVID-19 concerns, students will not be eligible for a refund of dining plan charges.” This is outrageous and egregious. In a global pandemic in which students have had their financial situations completely uprooted, they deserve to receive their money back in the event that the University stops being able to provide the food and housing that they paid for. Not only that, but the University also needs to guarantee that everyone who applies for emergency housing gets the emergency housing they need. 

The Housing Addendum also states that students agree to “acknowledge the contagious nature of COVID-19 and voluntarily assume the risk that [they] may be exposed to or infected by COVID-19 on campus and that such exposure or infection may result in serious illness and/or death.” The University of Maryland has made the decision that some classes will be in-person and is not informing students of which classes those will be. If UMD is going to allow for in-person interaction to take place, it needs to take responsibility for the fact that they may also be putting students at risk for exposure. 

There is also blockage in communication dependent on which colleges/schools students are in. Students in BSOS received communication that Testudo, by July 15th, will be updated to say what format their class will be in, while students in other Colleges have not. The deadline to sign the Housing Addendum is July 17th. This gives students two days to make their decision about staying on campus and this is simply not enough time. The deadline to sign the Housing Addendum needs to be extended to August 10th in order to allow for students to have enough time to discuss matters with their family and loved ones and make financial arrangements. 

UMD needs to prove that it cares about students and their safety and not profit.