Open Letter to the Administration of Tulane School of Architecture

Open Letter to the Administration of Tulane School of Architecture

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Members of Tulane School of Architecture started this petition to Iñaki Alday and

We, the undersigned members of the Tulane School of Architecture, believe that the reopening of the school as planned is unsafe and unnecessarily risky. We may be present at the start of classes, but our presence comes with apprehension, fear, and anxiety. We ask that you, the administration of the Tulane School of Architecture, acknowledge the following concerns.


In a July 31 e-mail, Dean Alday issued a statement saying "Only about 5% of Tulane's total undergraduate and graduate populations are planning other accommodations than on-campus coursework. (That number is much less in our school; you are eager to be back in studio!)." We believe the assertion that students are excited to be back is inaccurate. A lack of public outcry is not equivalent to consent.


The Tulane American Association of University Professors (AAUP) sent a survey to 1806 professors in mid-July, and of the 710 responses found 59% of professors were uncomfortable with returning to school as planned. This increases to 67% in the School of Architecture. Said an SLA professor, “I want the university to know that I DO NOT CONSENT to teaching in person. I will, because I have to get my meager pay, but I DO NOT CONSENT.” Said an architecture professor, “it seems very likely that someone from the Tulane community will die because of this decision to open-up, even partially” (16).


Tulane students have not had the opportunity to share their opinions in a similar matter. 


We have deep concerns over our safety this coming semester with in-person classes. While students and faculty alike expressed discontent with their virtual classes in the spring, COVID-19 infections skyrocketed in the United States over the summer, causing opinions to shift. Colleges are already proving to be hotspots of infection even before classes start: the New York Times surveyed around 270 universities, and found at least 6,300 positive cases (1). The University of Washington experienced an outbreak on their Greek Row earlier this summer, where over 117 students living in those buildings tested positive (2). This is over 10% of students living in Greek housing, which was de-densified more than 50% from its fall quarter occupancy (3). In-person classes, as Tulane plans, only increase the chances for infected students to spread the virus.


We are also seeing evidence K-12 schools are becoming hotspots as they reopen, including a school in Indiana that was open for hours before having to shut down (4). While they may not have had the resources to test every student before they arrived, they also are not housing their students in double-occupancy dormitory rooms with common bathrooms.


The long-term effects of COVID-19 are not fully known, but appear to be severe and debilitating (5). Symptoms may persist for months beyond the two weeks in which most people recover (6,7). A Harvard, Yale, and Mass. General study concluded that in order to effectively contain the coronavirus on a college campus, testing every two days is necessary (8,9). Tulane’s plan is to test every 30. The risk to our personal health and to that of our community is simply not worth anything to be gained from an in-person class. We shouldn’t have to make a decision to choose personal safety or quality of instruction.


The Orleans Parish School Board has publicized its plans to keep public schools closed until after Labor Day, if not longer (11). This creates a childcare conundrum for parents in our community: said a Tulane Architecture professor, “I have children and this has been a huge source of stress. If daycares and schools close but I am still expected to teach… it will be near impossible” (16) Not to mention, even with Tulane’s resources dedicated to prevention, a college campus is simply going to have exponentially more interactions than a typical school, accelerating potential vectors of disease. Our state is concerning, too: 73% of Louisiana residents are not giving contact tracers their contacts (10). Even if the Tulane community is substantially better at responding to tracers, that doesn’t eliminate the increased risk of adding thousands of opportunities to spread COVID-19 within the New Orleans community.


Moreover, New Orleans is one on a list of 11 cities provided by the White House that has alarmingly high increases in case positivity rates (12). The Louisiana Department of Health categorizes every parish in the state as having a “high incidence” of positive COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks (13).


Many faculty are at a much higher risk of experiencing complications from COVID-19 (including death) from their age (14). Furthermore, various faculty of Tulane School of Architecture previously voiced some of their concerns regarding in-person instruction, and the administration has made little effort to address them. This includes the ability of deteriorating mechanical systems in Richardson Memorial Hall to effectively eliminate airborne viral particles (15), and the possibility of exposing household members to the virus as a result of in-person instruction. Faculty also expressed concern over a lack of transparency in what information is provided to them – especially in various reopening committees – regarding the wishes and concerns of the student body. 


We are forced to risk our health and the health of others every time an in-person class occurs. We ask that the administration of the School acknowledge this, and consider the greater good of the Tulane School of Architecture, Newcomb-Tulane College, and the greater New Orleans community. 


Said a Tulane Architecture professor, “Tulane doesn’t just have a responsibility to its students and employees, it also has a responsibility to all the residents of this city – 60% of which are Black and disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.” (16). We as students, faculty, and staff ask that you strongly consider the concerns of health and safety leveled within this letter, that you listen to your constituents before taking any actions that pose a threat on the lives of so many of our community members. 


The administration has not solicited the concerns of the students which involve more than just the inadequate measures of plexi-glass shields, hand sanitizer, and insufficient testing. The cumbersome methods required to request online instruction and the inequities incurred by such are a poor solution to offer for prizing health and safety over education.


Though we accept the inevitability of in-person instruction, we do not consent to this. Though our views on how to proceed may differ, we are signing this letter in hopes that the School of Architecture opens a transparent community dialogue on reopening, as daunting and idealistic as that is with classes imminently approaching.


Signed Tulane School of Architecture Student Government

 

 

Cited:

  1.  Cai, Weiyi, et al. “More Than 6,600 Coronavirus Cases Have Been Linked to U.S. Colleges.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 29 July 2020, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/07/28/us/covid-19-colleges-universities.html?searchResultPosition=1.
  2. Treisman, Rachel. “121 University Of Washington Students Infected In Greek Row Outbreak.” NPR, NPR, 5 July 2020, www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/07/05/887458298/121-university-of-washington-students-infected-in-greek-row-outbreak.
  3. Jake Goldstein-Street and Ash Shah The Daily, and Lydia Ely. “COVID-19 Cases in the Greek Community Pass 100.” The Daily of the University of Washington, 6 July 2020, www.dailyuw.com/news/article_fbe9b63a-bc9e-11ea-81b5-878c9d55aa93.html.
  4. Shapiro, Eliza, and Giulia Mcdonnell Nieto. “A School Reopens, and the Coronavirus Creeps In.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 Aug. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/08/01/us/schools-reopening-indiana-coronavirus.html?action=click&module=Top%2BStories&pgtype=Homepage.
  5. Jennifer Couzin-FrankelJul. 31, 2020. “From 'Brain Fog' to Heart Damage, COVID-19's Lingering Problems Alarm Scientists.” Science, 4 Aug. 2020, www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/07/brain-fog-heart-damage-covid-19-s-lingering-problems-alarm-scientists.
  6. Yong, Ed. “COVID-19 Can Last for Several Months.” The Atlantic, 4 June 2020, www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/06/covid-19-coronavirus-longterm-symptoms-months/612679/.
  7. “What Are the Long-Term Effects of COVID-19?” Health News | University of Miami Hospitals and Clinics, 21 July 2020, news.umiamihealth.org/en/what-are-the-long-term-effects-of-covid-19/.
  8. A. David Paltiel, PhD. “SARS-CoV-2 Screening Strategies to Permit the Safe Reopening of College Campuses in the United States.” JAMA Network Open, American Medical Association, 31 July 2020, jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2768923?resultClick=3.
  9. Moyer, Justin Wm. “Students Can Safely Return to College If Tested for Coronavirus Every Two Days, Study Says.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 31 July 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/local/students-can-safely-return-to-college-if-tested-for-coronavirus-every-two-days-study-says/2020/07/31/a4316db0-d27f-11ea-af07-1d058ca137ae_story.html.
  10. Gallo, Andrea. “Louisiana Contact Tracing Stymied as 73 Percent of People Who Answer Don't Share Contacts.” NOLA.com, 2 Aug. 2020, www.nola.com/news/healthcare_hospitals/article_e131af56-d377-11ea-bfe0-7bf39e6fe07a.html.
  11. “NOLA-PS Announces First Day of School to Start with Distance Learning.” NOLA Public Schools, 21 July 2020, nolapublicschools.com/news/press-releases/nola-ps-announces-first-day-of-school-to-start-with-distance-learning.
  12. Whyte, Liz Essley, and Alex Ellerbeck. “Exclusive: White House Privately Warns 11 Cities Must Take ‘Aggressive’ Action in Coronavirus Fight.” Center for Public Integrity, publicintegrity.org/health/coronavirus-and-inequality/warning-from-birx-11-cities-must-take-coronavirus-aggressive-efforts/.
  13. “Louisiana Coronavirus COVID-19: Department of Health: State of Louisiana.” Department of Health | State of Louisiana, ldh.la.gov/coronavirus/.
  14. “Older Adults and COVID-19.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/older-adults.html.
  15. Owen, Graham. "COVID-19 Notification, HVAC." Message to Tulane School of Architecture Faculty & Staff. 30 July, 2020. E-mail.
  16. “Survey of Faculty on Tulane University Reopening Plan.” Tulane American Association of University Professors, Tulane AAUP, July 2020, https://tulane.co1.qualtrics.com/CP/File.php?F=F_3kLw9BtUHQU1ok5.
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