Student concerns regarding the handling of repopulation at IMSA

Student concerns regarding the handling of repopulation at IMSA

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Brogan Long started this petition to Dr. José M. Torres and

To Dr. Jose Torres, Dr. Comfort Akwaji-Anderson, and the other members of IMSA’s Administration:


We, the undersigned, believe that the IMSA Administrative communication and portrayal of the situation regarding both the IMSA Teacher and Residential Counselor Unions is unfair and immoral, and that the IMSA Administration is not treating its stakeholders with transparency and accountability. Here, we hope to express our dissatisfaction with the Administration's handling of all events in the past 48 hours and propose solutions


We believe that IMSA Administration is not acting in the interest of student safety and that they knowingly participated in misinforming students and parents in order to gain public approval. On April 1st, Dr. Torres released an email stating that teachers would continue to stay remote until IMSA increases health and safety accommodations beyond the minimum CDC and IDPH requirements. However, this email conveniently neglected to discuss the specific requests of the Teachers Union. It was not until later that day that a teacher’s Facebook post released details: HEPA filters were needed in dorms and the cafeteria per an on-site inspection conducted by certified industrial hygienist Dr. William Mills. Administration’s response is best summarized by the Union report itself: “Management has so far refused to install HEPA purifiers in the residence halls and the cafeteria. Without doing an air quality study in the residence halls, Management has said that opening windows will provide sufficient ventilation in living spaces. Management also claims that using HEPA filtration units will be too noisy in the cafeteria, yet they’re still planning to use that space for meals without any additional mitigations, despite the increased risks there. We’ve raised unanswered questions for Management about the scientific basis for their claims and plans. Management is relying exclusively on CDC and IDPH guidance and minimum compliance on most fronts, and they claim that the residence halls and main building are safe, even though they have no air quality study to support their claims.”


Let us reiterate that this Union letter, which was addressed to both parents and families, was released not through official channels, but through someone’s personal Facebook account. Rather than through an official statement from IMSA, the community was left to speculate and confused. Everyone’s reactions may have been drastically different had they known earlier that teachers were requesting reasonable measures for the safety of the students. Additionally, this lack of transparency leads us to wonder what other information is withheld and what else management is failing to enact upon. We are not surprised that these delays and refusal to comply left the Council with no other choice than to take action. Regardless, by not releasing any of this information through official channels such as through email, IMSA Administrators are creating a confusing environment that skews the narrative in their favor, especially for parents that might rely only on email communication. 


Additionally, we have concerns regarding the portrayal of our residential counselors misgivings. We feel that the second video [released via email on 4/2/21] blamed the RC staff for the reason that we are not returning. In particular the statement. “Given the RC Council's actions, we do not feel confident or we do not have confidence that they—the RCs—will create the conditions at IMSA that provide our students a genuine IMSA experience on campus. We do not think that our students would be psychologically safe.” We believe that Administration is not aiding in relieving emotional and psychological stress occurring within students. The claim that RCs are going to make us feel “psychologically unsafe” is completely untrue, as RCs are the students’ first line of support within IMSA. We are disappointed to see Administrators claim that those who are our closest confidants are the people standing in our way, when that is anything but the truth. Given that the students are aware that most RCs and faculty were not informed of repopulation until IMSA’s general public was, it is evident that the reasoning for the cancellation of repopulation has to do with many factors, rather than solely the actions of the RCs. Furthermore, there are serious understaffing issues which have been relevant since before we transitioned to distance learning in March 2020. It should have been very obvious that RCs did not feel ready for repopulation because of the large number who left. The RCs that remained put a lot of effort into preparing and decorating the halls during their break though, which signals that while many were not ready they still understood this to be a reasonable plan.


We believe that IMSA Administration's decision to cancel repopulation is retaliatory and anti-union. The time frame in which these decisions have been made were too short, and while we understand that it is tough, the priority must always be the wellbeing and safety of students. The decision to cancel repopulation is rash and has only hurt relations between IMSA Administration and the combination of students, teachers, and Residential Counselors. In short, we feel that the language used was misleading the student body and was meant as damage control, rather than prioritizing the wellbeing of our community. Given the hectic situation, as well as only three days notice, we feel that holding classes on Tuesday the 6th disregards the social-emotional health of our students and is inequitable considering many students will be unable to attend due to prior obligations.. We also request that from now forward, Administrators include all sides of the story when releasing decisions, and the documents related to decisions, especially documents coming from such organizations as the IMSA Council. By not including necessary information in emails to IMSA families, Administration knowingly misinforms the IMSA community. We hope that IMSA’s administration will take action, possibly through a town hall, to clear up the confusion.


Respectfully, 

-Representatives of the student body

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