Eduardo Acevedo, News Editor
When senior world and Africana studies double major Bianca Eaton first read VCU’s reopening plan in July, she knew she had to give VCU students a way to make their concerns heard.
“The reopening plan, to me, was extremely atrocious,” Eaton said.
Because of her and her family’s immunocompromised status, Eaton said VCU’s reopening plan would directly affect her and her loved ones’ health.
Eaton made an Instagram post she named “The fatality of ‘self-accountability’ and the problems with reopening VCU,” to call attention to VCU’s fall reopening plan and the university’s reliance on students to keep each other safe.
“There’s just too much self-accountability and I’m going to drill this into everyone’s head because it’s not going to work the way VCU wants it to work,” Eaton said.
According to Eaton’s post, the university’s plan is “unrealistic and irresponsible” for putting the responsibility of safety in the students hands.
The same day she posted on Instagram, Eaton created an online petition to make her peers feel heard and to give them a voice for their concerns on reopening.
“It feels like a student is choosing between education or safety,” Eaton said, “and that’s not an ethical choice that has to be made.”
The petition includes a link to an annotated version of VCU’s “Return to Campus” plan published July 24. Eaton added comments to the document, emphasizing the flaws and vagueness she found in the reopening plan and its COVID-19 guidelines.
As of Tuesday, the petition has more than 300 signatures.
“My life is more important than profit,” said one of the petition’s signers, Carolan Corcoran, in a comment.
Others who signed the petition online left messages regarding the risk VCU’s reopening could pose to student health.
“Our children are not medical experiments,” Claudine Sangare said in another comment. “Simply stated, it is not safe for them to return to school and be in groups during this pandemic with the # of positive cases increasing daily.”
As of Tuesday, VCU reported 53 active coronavirus cases among students and employees. There have been 195 confirmed student cases and 17 employee cases since the university began tracking the data.
Eaton said idealistically, she wants the campus to close and continue the semester with remote instruction, but realistically, VCU must give students the option to make any or all of their in-person classes online.
“All teachers should be required to have an online version and option of their classes for students who are participating fully in remote learning,” Eaton’s Instagram post said.
In the post, Eaton demands VCU enforce a full transition to online instruction and compensate professors and staff for necessary resources. She also said VCU’s required COVID-19 training could be abused or neglected by students.
Eaton said students may be able to skirt around the reopening rules by using “difficulty breathing” as a reason not to wear masks, for example.
“There’s too many loopholes,” Eaton said.
Associate Vice President for Public Affairs Michael Porter said in an email that VCU is making its decisions on campus operations based on recommendations from the VCU Public Health Response Team.
Duties of VCU’s Public Health Response Team:
- Monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 in the VCU community and develop protocols for response to case increases
- Develop protocols for call center operations and contact tracing team
- Manage response to local outbreaks of COVID-19
- Make recommendations to VCU administration regarding local and general closures
Porter said the Public Health and Response Team is made up of “experts in infectious disease, epidemiology, risk management, student health, employee health and other critical roles.”