Protect BU Graduate Students, Faculties & Employees Living on Campus During COVID-19

Protect BU Graduate Students, Faculties & Employees Living on Campus During COVID-19

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Qingyan Luo
Qingyan Luo signed this petition

While we appreciate the University's efforts to protect the community against the threat of COVID-19, we, the students currently living in graduate residences, are deeply concerned about the safety and health of all individuals staying on campus after hearing about the possible use of some non-empty student residences as quarantine spaces without notice to current residents in these buildings, starting in 2020 Fall semester. Therefore, we are writing this petition to request (1) separate self-quarantine spaces for confirmed and suspect cases, as well as those quarantined for preventive purposes, and (2) increased transparency about the university's decisions relating to COVID-19.

The aim of this petition is to protect the entire Boston University community as much as possible and reduce the panic among all members living on campus. It is worth noting that individuals who are carrying the virus do not necessarily show any symptoms, especially at early stages, but are still able to pass on the virus. All populations, including young people, are susceptible to the risk of infection and can develop into critical conditions. Living in the same building without any precautionary measures would almost certainly intensify the risk of speed spread of COVID-19.


Given the significant risks falling on all students, faculties, and school employees, especially those living on campus, we demand that the administration adopt the following approaches to protect the BU community:


1) Any identified individuals with close contact to the COVID-19 virus should be quarantined in centralized facilities separate from ordinary student living quarters.


The administration should not assume it “safe” to place individuals under quarantine into an occupied residence building just because the individual is not showing any symptoms. Studies and experiences have shown that some people carrying the virus can show very little symptoms, and chances are high that these people could pass it on unknowingly. (For example, please see here: https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/03/16/coronavirus-infected-people-without-symptoms-are-driving-epidemics-fast-spread-says-new-study/ https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/14/health/coronavirus-asymptomatic-spread/index.html


Inter-mingling self-quarantined individuals with a population without known contact with COVID-19 cases is a blatant disregard for our health and safety. Although most graduate living housings provide individual bathrooms, there are no practical means to ensure that individuals under quarantine would not use the elevators, lounges, laundry, and other common spaces in the building. Furthermore, it is possible that the virus could spread through the sewage and ventilation system. We simply do not understand the virus enough and having exposed individuals in the same building with a healthy population can lead to rapid community spread.

According to recommendations according to China's experience, as presented to the WHO (Source: https://files.covid19.alliancebrh.com/pdf/6.Annex%203%20Protocol%20for%20Management%20of%20Close%20Contacts%20V5.pdf ) individuals in close contact with known COVID-19 cases should be quarantined in centralized medical observation areas. These medical observation areas should be “a relatively isolated area far away from densely populated areas” and with its own septic tank. Most already occupied graduate residences are far from meeting these requirements.

We suggest considering large isolated spaces not currently occupied, such as the new buildings close to completion, or fraternity/sorority buildings. Vacated undergraduate housing can also be used for self-quarantine purposes, as long as each student under self-quarantine is guaranteed exclusive access to one bathroom. This may require placing only one student on each floor of the undergraduate building.


(2) Increase the transparency about the university's decisions relating to COVID-19

We cannot make informed decisions to protect ourselves without being informed about the material development of the university's decisions. The level of precaution that students would take can differ drastically if they are made aware of the university's specific quarantine policies. It is one thing to know in general that the virus could be living among us, and a very different thing to know that the apartments or the building next door are currently being used as quarantine spaces. The psychological effect as well as the resulting behavior change cannot be underestimated. 

Moreover, individual decisions about precautions are personal, but they have collective consequences on the Boston University community and it is BU’s responsibility to encourage bail. 

On a final note, our petition for separating self-quarantine spaces to student housing on campus is in essence to help curtail the spread of the virus at our best aggregate efforts. Intermingling healthy residents with individuals under self-quarantine significantly increases the risk of a community spread. As mentioned above, graduate student housing has shared laundry, mail pick-up area, and elevators. It is impossible for residents to avoid these communal areas during their regular course of life. Most graduate students assist in teaching courses, coordinate laboratories, and research at Boston University, playing a vital role in contributing to the Boston University community and mission. We are expected to interact with students, staff, and faculty on a daily basis once the semester begins. Therefore, exposing us to this tremendous health issue is also jeopardizing the BU community as a whole. Graduate students cannot afford to leave the campus upon short notice. Thus, the university should make it a priority to ensure that the current on-campus housing areas remain safe. We would love to see BU back to normal as soon as possible, and we believe protecting its student body still living on campus is the key step towards this goal.