Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian.
Dear University of Richmond Faculty and Administration:
I write to you today as a student and a member of the UR community. Due to the changing circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak, all students were requested to leave campus. The only exceptions to the situation, written in an email sent by Westhampton College Dean Mia Reinoso Genoni on March 17, were:
"1. International students whose home country has closed its borders, and who do not have an alternate place to stay – please contact the Office of International Education at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"2. Any students who experience food insecurity or other similarly serious circumstances, and who do not have an alternate place to stay – please email CollegeDeans@richmond.edu."
Although I understand that serious measures need to be taken to slow down the outbreak and flatten the curve (reducing the number of active cases at a certain amount of time), I urge you to consider the following while you continue to monitor the situation for the next several days:
1) Most countries are only closing borders to foreign nationals. The travel restrictions in most cases still allow citizens of a country to return to their home.
2) Traveling anywhere is risky right now. This is especially true for international students who usually have to travel for several hours and maybe days in a different country before returning to their home country.
Symptoms for COVID-19 usually appear 2 to 14 days after exposure, making it extremely difficult for authorities to track the patients. For this reason, I urge you to try your best to support housing for international students who are in a very high risk situation traveling by air.
Moreover, I believe that UR should continue to provide accommodations for international and exchange students from countries with the highest cases of COVID-19, such as China, South Korea, Italy, Spain and France, should they file a petition for housing.
For example, the 66th case in Vietnam, a resident of Ho Chi Minh City, flew from the U.S. to Vietnam on March 14, transiting through Toronto and Taiwan. Tests the same day confirmed the 21-year-old woman was infected with COVID-19. Up to that point, she had showed no symptoms.
3) Low income students depend on university-provided housing and wages to support themselves.
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4) Home can be extremely unsafe for marginalized (queer, trans, POC, undocumented, disabled, etc.) students. I urge UR officials to allow these students to stay on campus if they file a petition for housing.
5) Faculty should reduce the course load March 23-27 to allow international students to adjust to the situation. Many international students returning to their countries could be sent to quarantine in hospitals for 14 days.
6) If UR proceeds to send the students back, it should ensure that students are equipped with some protective supplies (hand sanitizers, sanitizing wipes, etc.) to decrease the possibility of them being exposed to the virus in public places.
7) UR should try its best to support out-of-state students who do not have the resources to access Counseling and Psychological Services off campus. This is crucial to ensure the well-being of all UR students.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Phuong Anh (Anya) Dinh
Contact contributor Anh Dinh at email@example.com.
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