After UNH Students Petition, Provost Offers Extension On COVID Consent Agreement | New Hampshire Public Radio

After UNH Students Petition, Provost Offers Extension On COVID Consent Agreement

Jul 22, 2020

Credit CREDIT MIKE ROSS, UNH

Nearly 700 students have now signed a petition asking for an extension on when a signed consent agreement is due before arriving on the UNH campus in the fall for classes.

The petition is asking that the deadline to sign the agreement be pushed back two weeks. 

It says students want more information around pre-arrival COVID-19 testing; how UNH will advise students who do test positive on going home, and which classes are available online if students don’t agree to sign the form.

Sydney Lambert is a senior at UNH. She started the petition after writing a letter to administrators asking for more clarity.

“The way that it went about it didn’t have enough detail to feel they were telling us this is what will be expected of you. It came off a lot more, 'you’re taking responsibility overall.'”

For Charity Reed, another rising senior at UNH who hasn’t signed the consent agreement, a big question for her is what the university expects around pre-arrival testing.

“My issue is that you’re asking me to say that I’m going to definitively do something, that I have no idea on how I could possibly do it,” Reed said.

Reed said she wants to understand if the university will be providing an opportunity for testing or if students will need to get tests done independently where they live.

“I have friends who are concerned that in their area they might not have access for free,” said Lambert, who wrote the petition.

The agreement states that students need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to arriving on campus.

In an email to the UNH community sent out on Tuesday evening, Provost Wayne Jones said that based on the concerns and questions raised by students and parents, UNH would extend the deadline to sign to July 31. (Read the provost's statement on the UNH website, and scroll down for the text of the email.)

Jones says that the informed consent agreement is not “the same as a waiver of liability.”  

“I can assure you that a majority of classes, more than 60% are expected to be face-to-face, even with COVID-19 capacity limits,” Jones wrote in his email.

Some classes may be listed as online, but have in-person recitations or lab sections that are scheduled separately. Jones said the university would have a course delivery glossary available for students by Thursday.

“While this is not exactly what we want, this is a step in the right direction,” Lambert posted in an update to the petition. “We are hopeful that this shows UNH is willing to listen and respond to the concerns of their students.”

The university email said that more information about testing would be sent out later this week.

There will also be a virtual town hall on Thursday, July 23 at 7 pm. to answer student questions.

“Although the town hall is a start, there are still many students who are waiting for replies from the administration about their questions and concerns,” Lambert wrote in her update.

Email sent to the UNH community on Tuesday evening:

Dear Wildcats—

I am writing to let you know that we have heard your concerns about the informed consent form. First, I want to clarify that an informed consent is not the same as a waiver of liability. It is a recognition that you understand what is expected and agree to follow behavioral and safety practices to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 for every member of our community. We’re working hard to get all of the necessary pieces into place to ensure a successful reopening of our campuses and that is challenging to do when information changes on a daily if not hourly basis. We will host another virtual town hall meeting Thursday, July 23, 2020, at 7 p.m. to answer your questions ( https://unh.zoom.us/j/92276774648 or +1 646 876 9923 Webinar ID: 922 7677 4648).

Many of you are asking about your classes. While the deans’ offices and faculty are still working hard to finalize exact details, I can assure you that a majority of classes, more than 60%, are expected to be face-to-face, even with COVID-19 capacity limits. In addition, blended classes will allow students to participate in face-to-face education at least once a week and we've increased the number of online offerings. Note, some classes that are listed as online may have recitations or lab sections that are face-to-face and scheduled separately for the same course, fulfilling the goal of as many classes as possible meeting face-to-face. Please look carefully before contacting your advisor or the dean’s office. While most of the curriculum is complete, we plan to finalize the planning over the next 7-10 days. I encourage you to visit courses.unh.edu, where delivery method is identified in each course’s “attribute” and “location” section. Within the next 48 hours, the registrar’s office will have a course delivery glossary available for your use.

Many students have asked about remote access to courses. With the additional pure online courses and the advanced technology that will allow students to zoom into classrooms, many classes are available for remote learning, but certainly not all. If you have told us that you intend to stay home and take all your classes remotely, a member of your college academic affairs office will contact you to determine whether you need help in adjusting your course selections. If you are unsure, please contact the associate dean in your college.

We have developed a comprehensive strategy to protect our community with physical distancing, frequent handwashing, required use of face coverings and COVID testing. We are #UNHTogether and we must act as a community for our health and well-being. We will provide testing on our campuses throughout the semester and you will receive an email with more comprehensive information later this week.

We understand this is a lot to process. As a result, we have extended the deadline to sign the informed consent until Friday, July 31, 2020. If you want to change the response you submitted to the informed consent, login to Webcat, choose “Student Informed Consent Agreement” from the Personal Information menu and click “I would like to change my response.” Any technical questions about how to do this can be directed to the UNH Help Desk at (603) 862-4242.

I look forward to talking with you Thursday at 7 p.m. If you are not able to join us, a recording of the session will be available on the COVID-19 website Friday.

Wayne Jones
Provost