To prioritize the safety of students and other members of the Georgetown University community, we, as Georgetown University Student Association representatives, recommend the university remain closed this spring. Nevertheless, we intend to continue our advocacy for more need-based housing for students who require it.
On Nov. 12, the United States recorded 133,000 new cases of the coronavirus, and nearly 250,000 Americans have already died from the virus. In this environment, it is unsafe and irresponsible for the university to invite students back to campus, and therefore our plan for the spring focuses on ensuring students have the proper resources necessary to finish out the year remotely.
A safe return, of course, is contingent on the creation and widespread deployment of an effective vaccine, which, as of November 2020, is still months away. As a community that preaches being people for others, Georgetown administrators, faculty and students alike must do our part in protecting our most vulnerable and marginalized students, even if it means continuing classes online.
As we have seen this fall semester, Georgetown students have been overwhelmed with the removal of three-day weekends they typically receive during a normal academic year despite continuing their studies online. As the administration further deliberates over a spring calendar, we demand the implementation of a calendar that not only observes regular three-day weekends and short breaks such as Easter and spring breaks, but also prioritizes the health and safety of all community members.
Students have been forced into a seemingly never-ending sprint since August, and many of us have been mentally and emotionally drained from looking at our computer screens for hours a day and from an increased workload on our end. Both the university and the faculty must remain cognizant of the fact that we are humans first and students second. Wherever we may be for the duration of the school year, one truth is universal: We all have our limits and have the responsibility to do what is best for our mental health.
Pursuant to academic success and mental well-being, we recommend the implementation of uniform standards of expectations for professors and students in a remote learning environment. While many professors have been extremely accommodating and flexible this semester, the lack of uniform policies has left some students unsure of the expectations. This particularly affects students not in Georgetown’s time zone, whether international or elsewhere in the United States. Therefore, we hope the university will make its policies on asynchronous learning clearer to ensure students are not put at a disadvantage purely because of where they are located during this pandemic.
Student testimonials we have received have also reflected heightened stress and anxiety because of an increased workload from some professors. We understand coursework can be difficult to regulate, but we hope the university will put in a good faith effort to create guidelines for faculty that accommodate student needs. Finally, we encourage the continuation of the grading schemes put in place last spring. We hope giving students increased flexibility with grades will decrease stress and ensure that learning, rather than assignment performance, is prioritized.
Our advocacy, however, should not end with academic accommodations. Recognizing the privileges of our student body, we must do our best to support our low-income and most vulnerable students. While we await the university’s decision for the spring semester, we believe the university should consider another tuition credit that benefits all its students regardless of their expected family contributions, as it has done this fall semester.
We should also recognize the selfless efforts of advocacy groups such as the GU Mutual Aid Network, which has supported Georgetown students in need. We encourage our student body to do what they can to support any advocacy efforts that benefit our Georgetown community, whether through sharing posts on their social media or donating to programs such as GU Mutual Aid because we are all in this together. Given this spirit of community and charity, we hope Georgetown students will understand the need to provide disadvantaged community members with the housing and resources they need, rather than pushing for an unsafe full reopening of campus.
Being a Georgetown student is more than just working toward a degree from the university; being a Hoya means embodying the values that our institution is built on. While we wait on the university to come out with its decision for the spring semester, we should all expect a policy that we may not be happy with. However, the point of a spring plan is to ensure the safety and well-being of our entire community. As we work to overcome challenges presented by the pandemic, we ask the student body to join us in taking a selfless stand and supporting Georgetown’s most vulnerable students.
Rowlie Flores is a junior in the College. He is a GUSA Senator for the Class of 2022. Christopher Ziac is a junior in the College. He is the Deputy Director of the GUSA COVID Response Committee.