After nearly two hours of debate, the GUSA Senate tabled two resolutions in opposition to the university’s plan for all-virtual learning, restrictions on campus dining, and closure of fitness centers at its emergency meeting on Jan. 2.
The first resolution calls for the university to provide students the opportunity to choose between returning to classes in-person or attending via Zoom, contrary to the university’s current plan of two weeks of virtual learning. The resolution also demands the previous pass/fail option be extended to this semester and further tuition reductions be offered.
“Students who want to learn in person can do that, students that want to learn online can do that, and because of that the university can charge full tuition,” Sen. Spencer Woodall (MSB, SFS ’24), who introduced the bill, said. “It’s a win-win-win, and an example of cura personalis.”
According to GUSA President Nile Blass (COL ’22), the university had considered delaying classes by two weeks, as institutions like the University of Chicago have done, but noted that this would have impacted graduation dates and students with time-sensitive academic schedules. Blass added that GUSA was not consulted prior to these decisions.
Senators were heavily divided on the resolution’s hybrid learning option as COVID-19 cases worsen in the District, with varying opinions on how impactful students’ return to campus would be to D.C. residents. “We have a higher vaccination rate than the rest of the city,” Woodall said. “Our mere existence makes the city safer.”
Others disagreed. “A lot of places, D.C. included, are having trouble getting tests right now,” Sen. Deborah Wey (SFS ’24) said. “It would be disingenuous to think that our presence wouldn’t somehow impact the city and the people that live there.”
Concerns regarding the short notice any change in learning would give students, the deadline for the booster requirement, the efficacy of any tuition reduction, and university compliance with GUSA resolutions saw 15 senators vote to table the resolution. Two senators abstained.
The second resolution narrowed the focus to the university’s closure of Yates Field House and Leo’s during the two weeks of virtual instruction. It calls upon the university to reopen both locations and for assurance that if any on-campus facilities are closed, Hoyas receive a sizable decrease in tuition charges and that Federal Work-Study students continue to be compensated.
Many senators, concerned that the reopening of these locations may play a role in the spread of COVID-19, objected to the resolution. “It is important to recognize that gyms are high-risk for transmission so it is logical to close down Yates,” Sen. Nirvana Khan (SFS ’24) said.
The bill failed by a vote of 12-11.
The Senate also unanimously passed a slate of policy chair assignments. Blass, reporting for the Executive, noted that GUSA would begin work with Dr. Jeanne Lord on the university’s GU 272 commitments through grant committees and review process this spring.
The Senate will next meet on Jan. 9 at 4 p.m. EST, with many senators hoping to rewrite and pass the resolutions.