By Enshia Li
To members of the Stanford administration:
In the wake of a global epidemic outbreak, Stanford’s lack of decisive action toward its community is deeply concerning.
Thus far, University responses have included banning travel to China and South Korea and strongly recommending against travel to high-risk countries. The University also ended the Bing Overseas Study Program (BOSP) in Florence early in response to worsening conditions in Italy. A recent email, sent Tuesday, strongly discouraged campus groups from hosting events with 150 participants or more, ensured students that cleaning will be enhanced and encouraged individual preventive hygiene measures.
All the while, Stanford continued to host Family Weekend, allowing thousands of individuals to travel to campus, and has taken no measures to halt physical classes, including large lecture classes where hundreds of students and professors gather in close quarters. The University has barely made any structural reforms to its day-to-day operations. This is dangerous. While individuals bear some responsibility for monitoring their personal hygiene and avoiding public gatherings, it is impossible as students and professors to avoid classes where one is vulnerable to infection. Stanford has the resources to ensure its community members’ safety through remote learning or other means but has failed to do so.
Community spread of COVID-19 has been confirmed in northern California and Washington state already. Health officials have repeatedly stated that the virus will inevitably spread in California. Many Stanford students are concerned — if not for their own health then for the health of their peers, their professors and campus workers. Not everyone on campus has a perfectly functioning immune system. There are individuals here who are older, have children and / or are severely immunocompromised. We have every responsibility to protect the most vulnerable members of our campus at all costs.
Given the close quarters in which everyone lives, works and studies, we cannot wait until the virus reaches our campus. Infected individuals can carry and spread the virus for a period of two weeks before showing any symptoms. If we detect it in a single student, chances are that many others have already been infected, meaning that the virus could be beyond containment. This is why preemptive responses are so important: If students are already relatively isolated, the virus never has the ability to spread.
There are two very clear steps the university can take to ensure the safety of its community:
Prevent students from gathering en masse to contain potential virus spread. Cancel classes, or at least remove mandatory attendance requirements for classes (especially large lecture classes). Make alternate arrangements for end-of-quarter examinations (i.e. take-home finals) so students are not packed in classrooms for hours at a time.
Establish channels of community monitoring. Inform all members of the Stanford community about the warning signs of coronavirus (fever, dry cough). Communicate when individuals should reach out and where they should go for testing. Ensure a sufficient supply of testing kits.
During the outbreak of a virus that has the potential to become a pandemic, the University cannot afford any degree of negligence.
To take action, please sign the petition asking Stanford to hold itself accountable here.
For a recommended, comprehensive contingency plan put together by concerned Stanford students, please visit this link.
Enshia Li ’22
Contact Enshia Li at enshia ‘at’ stanford.edu.