Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020, an email was sent out to the University of Massachusetts Boston community to inform them about a confirmed coronavirus case. As defined on UMass Boston’s FAQ on the virus, “2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a virus that causes respiratory illness. Symptoms can include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and pneumonia.” This is the first confirmed case in Massachusetts.
In subsequent emails from UMass Boston and Interim Chancellor Newman, it was confirmed the student came onto campus though did not engage in any activities or go to classes; many students were unhappy with how it was handled. One sophomore said, “I don’t like how they made it seem like the person was never on campus when we had to find out later that they were.” The email from Sunday, February 2 stated, “We are grateful that this young man sought medical attention immediately and greatly limited his contact with others. The student did not participate in any classes or campus activities last week.” Rob Pomales, Executive Director of University Health Services said all emails were reviewed by the CDC, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and Boston Public Health Commission before being sent out.
Pomales and Gail DiSabatino, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, held a briefing with students to discuss the matter and what actually happened. The student felt symptoms, took a car to campus, and went straight to UHS. They filmed the event and student questions. The video can be found on UMass Boston’s site as well as a list of FAQs on the virus and other information. (https://www.umb.edu/healthservices/alerts). People in administration are not worried and state this is low-risk.
In wake of what’s happened there has been a lot of backlash—from posts on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and other social media sites to petitions on student attendance to professor emails. One student’s Facebook post in the UMass Boston Class of 2023 shows screenshots of a professor’s email to their class. The post itself stated, “This was written by one of our professor’s at campus. Anything that is written is basically what I feel. I say we should all talk to the dean about our safety because I believe washing hands and not touching faces won’t do sh*t. I do not know about you guys but I am really concern [sic] for my health and saying ‘business as usual’ sounds kinda f*cked up to me!” The professor’s email gave even more information on what they say happened. The petition, titled “To NOT Require Attendance at University of Massachusetts Boston Due to the Coronavirus,” [as of Feb. 7, 2020] has already gained 417 out of 500 signatures.
A student posted a number on their snapchat story saying, “call this number if you want the full story BUT he has been quarantined OFF campus since he got here ... we should all be good but take the necessary precautions !!! face masks, hand sanitizer, GLOVES.” After calling the number, they declined to comment.
There have been cases of microaggressions on campus towards Asian students. A student in the East Residence Hall saw an Asian student go into an elevator and a white student walk out and wait for the elevator to come back down. In the Residence Hall cafeteria, a group of students got up to leave after an Asian student sat down. Two other instances are being reported.
If needed, contact Shawn De Veau, Associate Dean of Students and Deputy Title IX Coordinator or go to https://www.umb.edu/life_on_campus/student_affairs/support.