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Student Association calls for student accommodations amid coronavirus alerts

Channing Wang/Thresher

By Anna Ta     3/3/20 11:38pm

The Student Association introduced a new resolution recommending that Rice implement student accommodation policies in the case of an outbreak of COVID-19 cases, colloquially known as coronavirus, at Monday’s SA Senate meeting. Resolution #15 also calls for Rice to “strengthen its public health efforts in response to the concerns surrounding coronavirus.”

Will Mundy, current SA external vice president, added the resolution to the agenda late Monday night in response to the events over the weekend, which included a report that a Rice staff member was quarantined and others were asked to self-isolate.

“I think Rice should start to think about how we should respond to [a potential outbreak] now rather than later,” Mundy said. “[The accommodations would allow] students who need to be quarantined to still engage in the classroom without sacrificing their academics for their safety. It does seem like the administration is willing to listen to what we need for accommodations and that what we propose will be taken into account when they’re making their final plan.”

According to SA President Grace Wickerson, they were invited to be a part of the Crisis Management Team’s contingency planning group, which is charged with planning for a potential outbreak of coronavirus on campus. 

The resolution explicitly points to the University of Virginia’s responses to the global outbreak. A Feb. 6 memo from UVA directs faculty to provide services to self-isolating students returning from abroad, including providing class notes and leniency on attendance and late policy. 

The SA’s recommendations for accommodating affected students follow UVA’s model, including implementing live streaming service in classrooms for students unable to come to class due to quarantine, relaxing attendance and late assignment policies and increasing mental health services for those directly or indirectly affected by the coronavirus epidemic.

According to Wickerson, the resolution could pass as early as next week as long as there are no requested edits. 

“[Passing this resolution next week] might be a necessary action as the contingency planning is happening over the next couple weeks and we want to make sure that this [resolution] is a part of that plan,” Wickerson wrote in an email.

Mundy said any feedback on the resolution can go through college SA senators or directly to him. The resolution was not originally on the SA Senate agenda, but the document was disseminated through the SA Listserv and will be available online at the SA website in the Senate presentation, according to Wickerson.

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