Message from the Luther College Student Senate

Dear Members of the Luther College Community,

The Student Senate would like to formally address the administration’s recent decision to move to online learning between November 30th and January 4th, the creation of the “circuit-breaker,” as well as their ongoing handling of the COVID-19 pandemic on campus.
As representatives of the greater student body, the primary goal of this statement is to express our concerns regarding recent decisions made by the school administration, as it pertains to academics and the health and wellbeing of students at Luther College. The Student Senate would like to express its disappointment in the administration’s lack of transparency, as well as the decision to continually exclude student input from COVID-19 related discussions and decisions.
We have put together a list of concerns for the administration and COVID-19 Response Team to consider as they continue to meet. We are sending this to as many students as possible, to be transparent about the discussions happening in the Student Senate.

In an effort to contain the spread of Covid-19, the college has told students who test positive for the virus, are symptomatic, or were in close-contact with someone who tested positive, to isolate or quarantine for up to two weeks. However, the students are not required to stay in college-provided housing. The College needs to provide adequate quarantine and isolation housing so students have a place to live, safely distanced from others in the Luther community.
According to College data on the Active Cases, Quarantine, and Isolation Report, as of Friday afternoon, 25 active student cases and 1 active employee case with more than 150 students in isolation and quarantine.
There has been a continuous lack of supplies for students and their residences, including (but is not limited to) shortages of cleaning supplies, masks, and soap. When the Student Senate met with the Covid-19 Response Team on Thursday, October 22, those on the board stated that they were currently working on ensuring that students are provided with necessary supplies. This has not happened. Students have expressed concerns about lack of sanitation measures, the low quality meal delivery system, and the insufficient communication between them and the College.
International Students have inadequate health insurance provided by Luther College. An international student would be unable to seek services if they contracted COVID-19, as this is not covered in their plan. Students cannot feel safe when minimum levels of care are not being provided.

Student Life
Resident Assistants are students who live in the college-owned residence halls and are paid to work as peer advisors, troubleshooters, and problem-solvers for students living in the dorms. Resident Assistants have the closest relationship to the student body during COVID-19, and they are left out of all stages of decision-making by the Luther College administration. The RAs were informed that if they chose off-campus residency, they would have to pay $150 per week of being off-campus back to the college. Resident Assistants that choose to remain on campus would not receive any additional stipend for their heightened risk for working, with the lack of COVID-19 protocols being followed by the student community. We find this extremely disappointing and unfair, and that despite the increased workload and stress put on RAs, they are being forced to pay the school to leave campus. This will surely result in only RA’s who are financially capable of parting with this money to leave campus and care for their health. A Luther student’s ability to feel safe and healthy should not be contingent upon their financial status. Hence, we ask that Residence Life takes this into consideration and reviews this proposed RA repayment policy.
Work-Study has become a way for students to earn money to pay for school through part-time on-campus and off-campus jobs. Students who choose to remain on-campus would be allowed to continue to work. Unfortunately, those who chose to live at home would not be approved to work remotely. The loss of this important form of financial aid will be devastating, and could result in a Luther education being unfeasible financially for some students. Additionally, when students choose the option to take classes at home, they should not be charged for board as it is not being used.

Communication from the College
Luther’s Administration has repeatedly undermined and ignored the concerns of students. The town hall meeting on November 12, originally a Student Senate initiative meant to foster transparency between students and the administrators of the college, failed to answer many student questions, especially after the announcement about the switch to online learning in Quarter 2. Members of Student Senate were responsible for collecting questions from fellow students before the town hall meeting, and we had anticipated that members of the Senate would be moderators of the town hall, or at the very least, be on-screen during the webinar. This was not the case. Not only were members of the Senate excluded from most of the planning and implementation of the webinar, but most of the questions were no longer relevant. Additionally, no members of the Student Senate have been present at any of the Covid-19 Response Team’s meetings, despite promises that student representatives would be appointed. There needs to be a consistent forum between students and the college, and we are asking for someone in administration to take on the role of directly answering student questions as they arise, recognizing the fast pace of information that is emerging around this pandemic. With Health Services unavailable on the weekends (and during their break in the weekdays), and the triage nurse at Winneshiek Medical Center is not on-call 24/7, students need someone available as a resource at all times.

We recognize that adjusting to the pandemic is no easy task for anyone, let alone a college administration responsible for hundreds of students, faculty, and staff members, and we appreciate the efforts that are already being made. However, as representatives of the student body, we feel it is our duty to speak out when student concerns are not being heard and addressed.
This message is a call-to-action to all in the Luther community, especially to the administration: recognize that students’ lives are at stake; it is necessary that their concerns are addressed. Students, demand that your voices be heard in places where decisions about your education, health, and safety are being made. Please share this message with your peers.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Luther College Student Senate

Opinions expressed in columns and letters are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Chips or organizations with which the author(s) are associated.

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