Students petition to have classes online days before announcing online transition

March 13, 2020

A petition started going around Brandeis to move classes online days before the university announced that classes would be moved online. Started by student Hange Zhu ’22 on March 8, the petition was an effort to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus. 

“We care about our Brandeis community,” Zhu wrote in an email to The Brandeis Hoot. At the time of writing, the petition had gained over 2400 signatures, but Zhu and other students behind the petition said it had been initially criticized as “overreacting.”

“If there was no debate over the issue, we wouldn’t have started the petition from the beginning.” The focus of the student body, however, has now shifted from the petition and onto the recent policies set in place by Brandeis. 

Three days after the petition had gained traction, University President Ron Liebowitz released the official statement that all Brandeis classes would be moved online by March 20, and that Passover and spring recess would be shifted to March 23-25, April 9-10 and April 15-16. Students are asked to not return to campus after March 25. The email also noted that the Department of Community Living (DCL) will be allowing students to stay on campus on a case-by-case basis. 

Before the official announcement, however, other schools in the greater Boston area had already initiated measures in preparation for the coronavirus. As of Tuesday, schools such as Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Babson College, Amherst College and Boston University had announced either moving classes online and/or disallowing students from remaining on campus. Forbes estimated that at least 135 schools have closed or taken similar measures in response to the coronavirus. 

In the meantime, students have started mobilizing to help one another: multiple Facebook groups have been made, offering storage, housing, transportation and other necessities to students who either cannot afford to go home or do not have a home to return to on such short notice. 

Brandeis student Lena Rose Burdick ’21 has created the Brandeis Resource-Pooling In Response to COVID-19 Facebook group, where many Brandeis students have started offering services to any and all who require assistance during this time. In addition, Brandeis students have also been circulating a Google form for donations and support to first-generation and low-income students affected by the recent COVID-19 updates. Able community members and friends are urged to Venmo @brandeismutualaid or donate via Paypal at paypal.me/brandeismutualaid. In addition, many Brandeis students have started offering up emotional support as well. The Student Union has also maintained communications with the administration, then communicating any new information to the student body as well. 

Brandeis faculty and staff have also been proactive during this time. As online classes are a new experience for many in the community, Zoom workshops—Zoom being the program of access for these classes—are to be led by the Center for Teaching and Learning on Friday, March 13. “I am impressed with the creativity and thought that faculty members are putting into reimagining and remapping their courses,” wrote Provost Lisa Lynch in an email to The Hoot about the new change in the learning environment. “This is not the experience any of us imagined but we will get through this most unprecedented time.”  

However, a number of concerns have still been brought up by Brandeis students: WiFi, facility maintenance and dining are just some of the concerns for those who are staying on campus. Lynch explained that the administration is allowing students living in residence halls who cannot go home because they would not be able to work online. “They may have to move their current room though to ensure greater social distancing,” she noted.  Additionally, Lynch provided that the library—which will remain open—has a loaner policy for laptops, and any student who may be in need should contact Matthew Sheehy. In addition to the library, Gosman will also remain open, although with limited hours. Those updated hours can be found on the Gosman website: https://www.brandeisjudges.com/facilities/schedule. The Dining Committee has also reported updates on the latest dining updates: all dining locations except Currito’s, the Stein, Farber Starbucks, Mandel Cafe and the Science Center Cafe will remain open, although with updated hours. In addition, the Kutz Food Pantry—located in Kutz Hall—will remain open. Meal plan reimbursements are also on the way, although more updates have been reported to be coming soon. 

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