By Matt Kyle | Staff Writer
Aledo senior Madi Snow created a Change.org petition asking Baylor to protect students, faculty and staff who are at a higher risk for COVID-19.
Snow said she created the petition in response to Baylor reinstating its attendance policy requiring students to attend 75% of class meetings. Snow, who said she is a high-risk student, said with the attendance policy back in place, she felt she had to choose between protecting her health and protecting her grades.
“The way this pandemic has unfolded has been particularly hard to watch as a high-risk person,” Snow said. “To watch communities that I care about and belong to make the choice to not protect people like me feels very demeaning, isolating and frustrating.”
Snow said she believes there are misconceptions that people who are at higher risk only include older people, when in reality it can be anyone with an underlying condition, like herself. Snow said high-risk people who catch COVID-19 can have longer recovery times, meaning they might have to return to class before they are adequately ready due to the policy.
Snow said the attendance policy wouldn’t be an issue if Baylor offered hybrid or virtual class options for students.
“If a high-risk student is concerned about being in a class, they can recover in their homes while still getting course credit,” Snow said. “As recently as [Thursday] with the inclement weather, Baylor is proving that they have the infrastructure and the will to provide a virtual option if it protects students. So I think the question now seems to be, what students do they care about protecting enough to provide accommodation?”
Spring senior Katie Looff is a cancer survivor and said she signed the petition because even though she is vaccinated, her underlying condition could force her to have a bad case of COVID-19. She said with the attendance policy, she would be punished for having to miss class due to COVID-19.
Looff also said she was “outraged” by Baylor’s decision to rescind mandatory testing for some students and faculty.
“It really feels like Baylor is just pushing the issue to the side,” Looff said. “Just because people who get tested that aren’t vaccinated may be mild or asymptomatic, doesn’t mean everyone who catches COVID is going to be. If I stepped into class not knowing how many of my peers have COVID, that’s a big issue, especially since the mask policy is not as strong as it used to be.”
While Looff said she thinks the mask requirement inside buildings is fine, she said it needs to actually be upheld.
“I walk by classrooms and see professors without a mask on,” Looff said. “Staff in offices don’t have a mask on inside the buildings, and students just rip the mask off as soon as they get out of class. It wouldn’t be an issue if everyone was healthy and if everyone’s cases were mild, but you never know who you’re sitting next to. It’s just a matter of understanding and empathy.”
Snow said this issue is not one that exists within the “Baylor vacuum.” She pointed to recent student protests at UCLA to show how students are asking for equity across the country.
Snow said when she is not in class, she is protesting with a sign outside of Pat Neff Hall. Snow said she has been told by people who work for Baylor that professors are encouraged to offer online options, but that until the right to be in class virtually is guaranteed by Baylor, equity for immunocompromised students will not be achieved.
“They feel it’s unfair to categorize it as the university forcing students back into classrooms since they have encouraged professors to work with students in individual cases,” Snow said. “That doesn’t ensure equity for students; it’s left up to individual professors. There are plenty of professors on campus who don’t see that as a valid accommodation to make. It doesn’t effectively protect students across programs equally.”