Petition for MIT Administration to Take Action against On-Campus Spread of COVID-19

Petition for MIT Administration to Take Action against On-Campus Spread of COVID-19

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MIT Against Coronavirus started this petition to MIT Office of the President and

The highly transmittable Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been spreading within just one block from the MIT campus (https://www.nbcboston.com/news/local/massachusetts-coronavirus-cases-jump-to-41/2088086/ As of March 9th, 2020, a total of 41 cases (still growing) have been reported in Massachusetts. Among these presumptive cases, at least 32 are associated with the meeting held at the Marriott Long Wharf in Boston's Seaport District with employees of Biogen, whose headquarter is settled at Kendall. 

The MIT Campus is densely populated, where many people eat, live and go to class together. As members of the MIT community, we are deeply concerned with this situation. We consider it as an obvious and severe threat to the health and well-being of MIT’s over 10,000 students and over 2,000 faculty and staff members. On behalf of the situation, we have come up with a contingency plan (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1-6Y6Eqy2cc93tKGnlIStRXb3eOPQ0-rsU7f-vibLGJI/edit?fbclid=IwAR3AueQXgQgA-KoHVnWdsGd3IRcyQoVyvNyvanZygcMk_ZS79H2VmSf7OQU#gid=0). Among all the strategies of the plan, we would like to specify the following few, and we invite President Leo Raphael Reif to respond to them:

1. Cancel all classes of next week (9th to 13th, March) involving more than 25 students as early as possible, to set up tools necessary for online or recorded lectures.
2. Change all in-person quizzes and exams to take-home quizzes and exams, which can be submitted online.
3. Make sure all dishes and utensils are cleaned properly in the dining hall.

MIT has already announced actions against the possible on-campus spread of the virus, including travel and event guidance. The faculty members also received surveys asking their demands for the transference of regular educational and academic events to online platforms. However, regarding the classes and instructional meetings that are directly linked to the students, faculty and staff members (among whom there are much older people), the last term of MIT’s statement still announced that these events can continue to be held as normal.

The COVID-19 in US has spread much faster than expected, and MIT’s effort on publicity and policies against this health crisis is not at a satisfactory pace. “Do not go to class when feeling sick” is not enough. As the virus is known to cause infection without symptom (while still contagious) sometimes, an infected person could have been attending lectures, or in close contact with hundreds of students and staff members for more than a week. Previously, most cautions students received were about foreign travel, treating COVID-19 as a foreign instead of a domestic issue, underestimating its danger, and their emphasis on personal hygiene was practically limited by the lack of institutional actions towards gatherings. On the other hand, the continual portrayal of coronavirus as a foreign but not domestic issue feeds into the policing of, discrimination against, and alienation towards Asian, and causing paralysis regarding the genuine risk of community transmission. 

Having closely followed the progression of COVID-19 in Asia during January and February, we are deeply alarmed by the inaction we see in the US. That inaction extends to MIT, where social gatherings have been warned against while professors continue to meet students and frequent academic gatherings continue. While the disease may not pose a particularly serious threat to most of the undergraduates and graduate students, it does pose a grave threat to faculty members (The conservative estimate for the death rate for those over 60 is 6%, based on data from some Asian countries).  That alone should motivate the University to cancel all gatherings.

The coronavirus knows no boundary. It transmits from one to another when people are gathering unprotected, regardless of the purpose: election rally, celebration, education, or anything else. Being aware of the consequences in some Asian and European countries, we cannot let the same story happen in our community again.


We wish all our community members to live long and prosper.

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