UMass Boston Safeguard Our Health
UMass Boston Safeguard Our Health
Dear Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco:
We are a group of doctoral students within the Counseling and School Psychology Department at the University of Massachusetts Boston whose health is being jeopardized due to the disturbing reality of the re-opening of the University, as experienced on September 7th, 2021.
Despite being promised a conscientious transition to going back to on-campus learning, many of us were appalled to see the blatant disregard for COVID safety precautions per the CDC guidelines. There is limited availability to practice social distancing in many of the University spaces, specifically the classrooms in Wheatley and McCormick. Desks and chairs were not spaced 6-feet-apart, which is the CDC guideline for staying safe in enclosed spaces. Additionally, due to the sheer number of students coming to this campus simultaneously (around 16,000 students, not including faculty, staff, and essential workers), with the ongoing construction, it is nearly impossible to maintain a safe distance at all times on campus. For example, even taking the shuttle buses to get to the campus from the JFK/UMass station and the parking lots requires being in close proximity to both the driver and the passengers, in an extremely small, closed space. Therefore, limiting exposure at this time is unrealistic. For these reasons and more, contact tracing is also virtually impossible, and there are no clear instructions to safeguard the students who will inevitably come into contact with even a single person on campus presenting with COVID symptoms.
The University of Massachusetts Boston champions itself for its diverse student population, using our marginalized backgrounds to boast the school's inclusivity and commitment to social justice. However, the University has failed to truly commit to its diverse students and social justice values by failing to take the necessary precautions to keep everyone on campus safe. Many of us commuting to campus are within high-risk groups for COVID infections and deaths or are in close proximity to loved ones who are at high-risk.
We should not be asked to choose whether to live without education or die in the pursuit of it.
As doctoral students in the Counseling and School Psychology Department, we are incredibly worried, not just of the risks to our community’s physical health, but that of the mental health and well-being of all those who step onto this campus during these unprecedented times. Additionally, despite supplying an enormous amount of under-paid labor as research assistants, teaching fellows, and campus staff, graduate students were not included in the decision-making process of returning to in-person campus activities. It is evident that students were not centered in this approach, and thus, we are left bearing the repercussions of decisions made for us without us.
Needless to say, while we were all very excited to rejoin our colleagues in-person for the Fall 2021 semester, the current situation calls for a return to virtual instruction or, at minimum, to allow students the opportunity of opting into virtual instruction without academic penalties or credit loss.
Until public health and safety guidelines are taken more seriously and appropriate measures in accordance with CDC guidelines are put in place, we cannot come to this campus with the confidence and the ability to engage as doctoral students without the immense anxiety of the risks to our health. Due to the reasons listed above, we urge you to move courses to a virtual format as soon as possible for the physical health, mental health and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff.
We urge those students who are committed to the health and well-being of our community to join this petition.