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Sunday, June 23, 2024
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Opinion: Open letter to AU administration: This change can wait

Cosigned by Disability+ Faculty & Staff Affinity Group Leaders, students and faculty members

This article is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Eagle and its staff.  

Sacrificing the most vulnerable of our community for the pleasure of the majority – is that what “a community of care” is, Sylvia Burwell?

As the leaders of the Disability+ Faculty and Staff Affinity group and the Disabled Student Union, we want to publicly denounce American University’s sudden, unethical and autocratic decision to lift the mask mandate without having consulted faculty, students or staff. Representing some of the most vulnerable constituents of our community, but speaking for all who are concerned about the negligent and rash decision-making processes of our administration, we call on AU to retract this sudden endangerment of its community members and reinstate the mask mandate in classrooms and other shared spaces until the end of the spring semester.

We find it especially distasteful that AU has chosen to call this a “less impactful period” — with 1,400 deaths a day, do we really want to minimize the suffering many of our loved ones still experience on a daily basis? With little scientific knowledge about the long-term effects of COVID-19 and the high rates of students with mental and chronic illnesses and other disabilities at American University, do we want to suggest their health, safety and lives are less worthy of protection?

This announcement was published a day after students returned from spring break, from international and national travel to many COVID-19 hot spots in the country and the world. Given what we know about the inoculation period of COVID-19, is five days really enough to “account for any cases that may result from spring break travel”? AU doesn’t even require testing for students returning from travel, which means it might take up to 7-10 days for most students to show symptoms, let alone get tested and isolate.

Placing the onus on those trying to protect themselves and loved ones from infection is unconscionable. Students do not feel comfortable asking a professor to mask up, who they know might not “give them full consideration.” It is painfully clear that AU is trying to abnegate responsibility — as it did when it tried to begin the semester without required testing, and as it has continued to do so when it hasn’t enforced testing requirements.

If AU truly wanted to take a phased and measured approach to changing mask requirements, it could have chosen to allow for less protective masks first, such as surgical and cloth masks, or allowed unmasking in select locations that nobody would be forced to be in. Students should not have to choose between failing a class and getting COVID-19. Does the “burden” of having to wear a mask really outweigh the safety of our community, Sylvia? We cannot understand who is being prioritized here, but we know it is not those who we have promised to protect.

We repeat: reinstate the mask mandate until the end of the spring semester. We promised students, faculty and staff in January that we would protect them and we should not fail them now. This change can wait, and it must.

Disability+ Faculty & Staff Affinity Group Leaders (Tanja Aho, Anna Cook, Charley Fogel, Marc Medwin)

Disabled Student Union at American University

AU PRIDE Executive Board

AUSG Women’s Initiative 

SEIU Local 500 Staff Union Representatives: Aubrey Hill, Sam Sadow, Linda Golden, Geneva Walker

Arthur Stallworth, Co-Chair People of Color Affinity Group, First Year Advisor/AUx Instructor

Jason D'Angelo, First-year Advisor, AUx Instructor

Roshan Abraham, Co-Chair AUx2 Working Group, First-Year Advisor/AUx Instructor 

Caroline Figueiredo Hausmann, First-Year Advisor, AUx Instructor

Jodi Ross, First-Year Advisor, AUx Instructor

Carry Osborne, First-Year Advisor, AUx Instructor

Michelle Swiger, AUx1 Co-chair, First-Year Advisor & AUx Instructor

Tara Rison, First-Year Advisor + AUx Instructor

Isabelle Grey, Cyber Security Engineer III, OIT

Jordan Maidman, Cybersecurity Engineer II, OIT

Amanda Choutka, Senior Professorial Lecturer, Writing Studies Program, Literature 

Laura Lee

Eileen J. Findlay, Professor of History and Chair, Department of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies

Anthony Angelo Gualtieri, Adjunct Professional Lecturer, Department of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies

Nina Enagonio, Graphic Design Coordinator, School of Public Affairs

Fiona Brideoake, Assistant Professor of Literature

Gavin Frome, Graduate Assistant for Teaching Support, Center for Teaching, Research & Learning

Amy Barber, Professorial Lecturer and Director of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies 

Robert SanGeorge, Career Advisor, AU Career Center & School of Public Affairs

Garrett Fojtik, First-Year Advisor, AUx Instructor

Lydia Morris Fettig, Hurst Senior Professorial Lecturer, Department of Literature

Leila Hernandez, Customer Service Specialist, AU Career Center

Christina Juhász-Wood, Professorial Lecturer, Department of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies

Dustin Friedman, Associate Professor of Literature

Mary Ellen Curtin, Associate Professor, Department of Critical, Race, Gender, and Culture Studies and Program Director, American Studies

Lily Wong, Associate Professor of Literature; Critical Race Gender & Culture; Associate Director of Faculty at Antiracist Research and Policy Center  

Lisa Dupree, Circulation Services Specialist, Bender Library

Jane Palmer, Associate Professor, Department of Justice, Law & Criminology

Theresa Runstedtler, Associate Professor of History and Critical Race, Gender, & Culture Studies

Johnathan Flowers, Professorial Lecturer, Department of Philosophy and Religion

Marie Spaulding, Senior Career Advisor, CAS and SOE, AU Career Center 

Jacob I. Wilson, First-Year Advisor, AUx Instructor

Caroline DeLeon, Assistant Director, First Year Advising

Kirstie Dorr, Associate Professor of Critical Race, Gender and Culture Studies and Literature

Teresa Larkin, Associate Professor of Physics Education, Department of Physics 

Ari Pedersen, Laboratory Instructor, Department of Physics

Asia Ferrin, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy and Religion 

Quynh H. Vo, Professorial Lecturer, Department of Critical Race, Gender, & Culture Studies

Demitrius Evans, First-Year Advisor + AUx instructor

Editor's Note: The signatures on this op-ed have been updated since publication.

As the semester comes to an end and one of the founding members leaves American University, Section 202 has decided to take a trip down memory lane. For our fans, old and new, who are wondering how Section 202 came to be, this episode is a must. Listen along as hosts Connor Sturniolo and Liah Argiropoulos reminisce about the beginning of Section 202 and how it got to where it is now.

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