Smith College COVID Hunger Strike

Smith College COVID Hunger Strike

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Smith Student started this petition to Smith College

To whom it may concern,

I am a senior at Smith College. As of now, September 9, 2021, at 4:30pm, due to threats from the administration, I will be going on hunger strike to protest Smith’s unscientific and excessive COVID/masking policies.

Smith College requires all students without an exemption to wear a mask in order to attend classes. However, despite repeated requests, Smith has refused to grant me an exemption for the mask mandate, and is now threatening me with suspension and arrest in order to force compliance with a policy with which I am unable to comply without negatively impacting my health and well-being. 

But seeing as I am an independent, low income student who does not receive support from family, this means that I will be homeless on account of the Smith’s inability and refusal to consider my reasoning for exemption as valid. They are effectively trying to force compliance by threatening to remove my access to reasonable accommodations, housing, education, healthcare, and food. 

Note that this is an issue which was created by the administration and faculty, who happen to be some of the best paid in the country — not by fellow students, nor ordinary dining/cleaning staff, who largely seem comfortable with me going maskless, having not asked me to mask even once. Not to mention that Smith itself does not follow its own policy as, due to building closures, our dining hall is wildly overcrowded and clearly not at 50% capacity as is claimed. 

Previously Smith allowed students to go unmasked indoors up until mid August when their policy suddenly changed (too soon for students who had already committed to attending the college to change their plans). The state of Massachusetts does not have such an indoor mask mandate and the city of Northampton (where Smith is located) allows exemptions to the mask mandates for health reasons under section 4 of the most recent mandate since writing this.

Smith purports to care about social justice, equity, and scaling back overpolicing, but this is a lie. Smith does not seem to be concerned about the supposed “safety” of whatever community (or jail) they intend to send me to for my inability to mask — only about protecting the low risk, nearly 100% vaccinated, and largely privileged members of their student body/faculty/administration from even a slight risk of infection. They have no issues with calling the police on nonviolent poor people, functionally forcing them to be homeless, as long as they can spin it as “woke” or “policy”. Safety, it seems, begins and ends with obedience.

My primary demands are the following:

- A clear explanation for the purpose of the mask policy with reasonable accommodations for those who cannot mask.

- No more constant changes to the school’s COVID policy and then punishing students for not following rules that they never agreed to (in the past week alone, Smith has repeatedly updated the handbook/COVID policy and required students to sign).

- A clear, reasonable end date or standard for when restrictions will be removed (despite repeatedly asking Smith’s COVID advisory board for an answer to this, but they refused to answer).

- Online accommodations for all immunocompromised or vulnerable students who request them (as Smith had more than enough resources to accomplish this) as well as paid leave or remote accommodations for any staff who feel they are too vulnerable to work in person.

- A new Student Bill of Rights to empower students and limit Smith’s ability to make unreasonable or excessive demands on students in the name of “public health”.

- A commitment not to use police force (or the threat of police force) on nonviolent students over noncompliance issues.

I would like to point out that I am not nor have I ever been a right winger, a Trump supporter, or a Republican, in case that argument is brought up in an attempt to discredit me. This is NOT a left-right issue. This is an issue of my personal wellbeing, civil liberty, and my right to access housing, healthcare, education, and food. 

I am deeply ashamed to be affiliated with a woman’s college that would rather attempt to imprison a low income student and destroy her life over not covering her face than make a reasonable accommodation that the community does not seem to have an issue with. I can only hope that Smith’s administration will be able to live with their actions in the years to come.

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