Minneapolis

U student leaders want more safety protocols before reopening

2020-08-24 15:54:57 –

University of Minnesota student leaders say they cannot support the reopening of campus classrooms and dormitories unless the school implements greater safety protocols.

Student association leaders from the Twin Cities, Duluth and Rochester campuses wrote a joint letter to the U’s Board of Regents Friday calling for increased testing and safety procedures this fall. The regents will vote Monday on President Joan Gabel’s proposal to delay the opening of campus dormitories and the start of in-person undergraduate classes at the three campuses by at least two weeks to give administrators more time to evaluate public health conditions.

“In numerous meetings, we have emphasized the need for additional protocols to be taken before our University can reopen safely,” student leaders wrote in their letter. “However, we have not yet seen a commitment to increased testing and safety procedures from the University.”

The U currently plans to test only students who are symptomatic or have been exposed to someone infected.

Fall classes start Sept. 8 at the U’s Twin Cities and Rochester campuses and Aug. 31 at the Duluth campus. Classes for the roughly 38,000 undergraduates at the three campuses would still start on time under Gabel’s proposal but would be taught online initially, with limited exceptions.

Twin Cities students were scheduled to begin moving their belongings into campus residence halls on Aug. 30. First-year and transfer students at Duluth were set to move in this week. Housing and dining contracts will be prorated should regents approve Gabel’s proposal, officials say.

Students wrote in their letter that they “deeply miss” the connections made through in-person learning, but the safety of students “must be prioritized.”

They pointed to COVID-19 case rates in areas surrounding large universities such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Notre Dame, where campus outbreaks have forced a shift back to online learning. The case rates in those communities are lower than in the Twin Cities, the students noted. And St. Louis County, where the U’s Duluth campus is located, is among the counties with the highest growth in new cases in Minnesota.

The leaders also urged regents to consider ways to “lessen the financial burden” on students if the university were to not reopen its campuses and shift all classes online for the fall semester.

Regents will meet at 10:30 a.m. Monday to discuss Gabel’s proposal.

 

Twitter: @ryanfaircloth

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