Staff Editorial: Students returning from abroad due to coronavirus raise questions about University’s response

The University should be doing more to show support

Staff Editorial: Students returning from abroad due to coronavirus raise questions about University’s response

Nine students studying abroad in China were told to come back to AU following the growing effects of the coronavirus. While AU sent emails regarding the outbreak leading up to their decision to bring abroad students back, there have been no updates since. As the global situation surrounding the virus grows, the AU community should be doing more to support those impacted by the crisis. 

Beyond the students who were abroad in China for the spring 2020 semester, AU has many international students from China who might have family and friends directly affected by the outbreak. In addition to this concern, college campuses are seeing a growing sense of xenophobia in reaction to the virus originating from China. As a university that has Asian and international students, it is essential that we do everything we can to show support to them. 

The AU administration has a history of making reactionary statements instead of preemptive ones, a history that is compounded by the absence of a show of solidarity with international students potentially affected by the virus’s impact on family or xenophobia they might face in D.C. The lack of support portrays a well-established image of an administration that neglects to understand the students it claims to work for. 

Some programs make a student’s graduation contingent on studying abroad, specifically when it comes to Asian studies. AU’s offerings in East and South Asian studies are severely lacking, so students seeking to focus on these areas must do so at abroad institutions. It raises graduation concerns when the University compels students returning from China to finish their semester at AU, where the classes they need to take do not exist. The University should not only grant leniency in these cases, but also take steps to ensure course offerings meet the necessary standards to prepare for unusual situations such as this one. The experience of having your study abroad semester cut short is already a frustrating one, but the fact that it might impact a student’s ability to graduate on time is unacceptable. 

Additionally, these students who set up their lives in China now have to find a place to live at or around AU. Although this outbreak had a sudden and shocking onset, the University should still be directing support, academically and otherwise, towards the students whose futures are now in question. 

As a community, we should be directing our efforts towards ensuring the well-being of those affected by this global crisis is cared for, whether that be emotional support or some kind of assurance that this situation, which is completely out of anyone’s control, will not prevent a student from graduating on time. 

The absence of a statement and action is just as telling of an administration’s priorities as a carefully crafted email or plan would be. The University should reach out and offer support to the groups of students affected by the coronavirus outbreak and assume their responsibility of ensuring the students’ well-being. In a situation as harrowing as this one, the University’s lack of solidarity betrays yet another out-of-touch view in regards to the emotional and mental welfare of its students.

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