Student organizations, Faculty Association sign letter of fall semester demands

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SA President Howard Brookins said he hopes administrators will “compromise” with students regarding the list of reopening demands.

The Student Association released a statement Thursday calling on officials to implement a dozen changes to GW’s fall reopening plan, including holding most classes online.

The statement, signed by six student organizations and the Faculty Association, calls on administrators to only hold classes on campus that physically cannot be held online and reduce on-campus housing by “at least” half. Student Association President Howard Brookins said the SA Senate relied on information from conversations with administrators to draft the demands because the SA does not support the current proposed reopening plan.

“The SA felt it was important to put forth this letter to give the students clarity on where we stand,” he said. “We prioritize the safety of students, and with cases spiking, we didn’t feel comfortable with the current plan the University has put forth. The Student Association wants more strenuous safety measures to mitigate the risk of students contracting COVID-19.”

Officials announced new campus guidelines earlier this month that will not allow students to enter residence halls other than their own. Officials also said they are still planning to implement a hybrid instruction model in the fall, but the plan has not yet been approved by the District.

Brookins said he hopes administrators will “compromise” with students regarding the list of reopening demands. He said SA Executive Vice President Brandon Hill and SA Senate Chief of Staff Zachary Nosanchuk, a former Hatchet opinions writer, are holding an Instagram Live conversation Tuesday with Lynn Goldman, the dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health, about students’ health and safety in light of the pandemic.

“The Student Association will push for the safest possible conditions through multiple ways of communication between leadership,” Brookins said.

Representatives of the GW Progressive Student Union, GW Students Against Imperialism, GW Young Democratic Socialists of America, Sunrise GW and GW Girls Who Code – organizations who also signed the statement – did not return requests for comment.

“The only option that preserves the safety of students, staff and faculty is to close down as many on-campus buildings as possible and limit movement to slow the spread of COVID-19,” the letter states.

The letter also demands officials reduce the cost of attendance, institute an optional Pass/No Pass policy for the fall 2020 semester and assist in the cost of moving students’ items.

The statement calls on officials to ensure faculty and staff don’t undergo layoffs and create a financial pool for faculty and staff to draw on to alleviate financial stress. The statement also includes a request to reinstate fixed tuition or meet 100 percent of students’ demonstrated financial need.

University spokeswoman Crystal Nosal said that officials are working “as quickly as possible” to update the GW community with more information about fall reopening.

“We remain grateful for the flexibility, patience and resilience of our entire community as we manage the uncertainty of this evolving situation together,” Nosal said in an email. “As we move forward, safety and care will continue to guide all of our actions. We will share more information as soon as it is confirmed in the coming days.”

Erin Chapman, the president of the Faculty Association, said that the organization stands by the demands outlined in the letter and hopes that administrators will fulfill them.

“We are very pleased to see the SA take up this issue on behalf of the wellbeing of GW students, staff and faculty,” Chapman said in an email. “It is our hope that the GW administration will heed our calls to act in the interest of the health and wellbeing of all of us who make up the campus community.”

Rising junior Fletcher Calcagno – a member of the leadership team for GW Students for Bernie, which also signed the letter – said the organization stands by the SA’s position that holding online classes for the fall is the safest option for students, faculty and staff. He said student leaders should compromise with administrators on as few of the demands as possible.

“The purpose of going online in the fall is to save lives,” Calcagno said in an email. “Fighting layoffs, maintaining financial aid and reducing tuition for online classes are all policies necessary to limit the financial ruin that this pandemic is already putting on people all across the country.”

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