UMBC Must Adapt to COVID-19

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With the continuation of the COVID-19 Pandemic around the world, and its drastic effects across the country, UMBC has decided to hold most classes completely online, with a few exceptions for Hybrid Courses. 

The University once again needs to take into consideration the concerns across the student body of the challenges they will face; whether they are at home taking online classes, coming to campus for hybrid courses, or for taking the risk of living on campus. It is unrealistic and unbecoming of an honors university to expect the same quality of work under these conditions.  


With this continued worldview in mind we are also of the opinion that a students continued academic performance is going to be limited by a number of factors, given this their GPA should not be a reflection of the circumstances beyond their control, in light of the effort that they do put forward, which often is greatly increased with the online format of instruction. 

As in the Spring, Students should have the opportunity to select if they so choose to have their classes  be changed to Pass/Fail, rather than forcing them all to be Pass/Fail. Along with this P/F should apply to all major, minor and certificate requirements. 

Lower Tuition

We believe that a quality education has value beyond its price tag. As such, we recognize the drastically rising costs of tuition and concurrently stagnant wages over the years as a major political issue. While many of our most vulnerable students have already had to deal with economic and political hardships even before the COVID-19 pandemic, mass job losses have only worsened the already fragile financial states of students and their families. UMBC cannot claim to stand for these students and their communities while maintaining these inequalities.

We must ensure that UMBC’s workers and students will be financially stable throughout the pandemic as best we can. We recognize that many UMBC students and their families are also workers.

Knowing UMBC’s commitment to addressing systemic inequality, we feel compelled to take note of Larry Hogan’s recent budget allocations, passed by the Maryland Board of Public Works on July 1st. In particular, we note the slashing of $131.5 million from the University Systems of Maryland’s Budget. While the cuts to state employee’s pay were fortunately overturned, this devastating decision on funding for education remains, along with $281.5 million worth of cuts elsewhere.

However, UMBC still holds responsibility for its response to this crisis- and moreover, has the capacity to make a difference for its students and staff. UMBC specifically received $4,657,829 through the CARES Act to provide Emergency Financial Aid Grants. Additionally, we recognize its $105.2 million dollar endowment is not necessarily liquid assets, and should only be used for emergencies, the COVID-19 pandemic is perhaps the clearest emergency we have seen in our lifetime. This makes it apparent that the funds could also be used to alleviate fiscal burden from students while protecting their health.

Defund Campus Police

If UMBC still cannot find enough funding to prioritize its students and workers’ wellbeing, we suggest defunding its campus police which has an annual budget of $2,681,679. In light of recent protests against police brutality primarily affecting the Black community, this serves as both a practical example and moral responsibility on behalf of UMBC to defund the police.

Online Learning Accommodations

While we hesitate to put a price value on education at all, we recognize the concerns of the many students who feel that online learning is not worth the same tuition price as the in-person learning experiences enrolled in UMBC for. Online learning is disingenuous and creates a number of both personal, practical and academic issues depending on a student’s background and needs as a learner. According to a recent study by Barnes & Noble College Insights, 45% of college students surveyed “are concerned they will not perform as well academically under these circumstances”, and 12% were “concern[ed] about their internet access not being strong or fast enough”.

Additionally the continued charging fees for courses that are normally used to cover expenses related to hands on experiences in labs and workshop environments that have become unusable seems like an absurd oversight that must be rectified. 

We understand that the UMBC administration shares many of the challenges faced by our fellow students and workers. We empathize deeply with their struggle to provide effective solutions to this pandemic under such circumstances and short notice. As such, we hope this petition serves to represent our needs as students while providing concrete policy recommendations that will benefit us all. Only through solidarity can we build a better post-coronavirus future for UMBC.