Friday is the new deadline by which students in the University System of New Hampshire have been asked to sign an informed consent agreement before arriving on campus.
Earlier this month, students had petitioned the system to extend the deadline for signing the agreement, which includes a list of policies and protocols students will need to follow, and asks them to assume the risks associated with being at UNH, including the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Joshua Marshall is a first-year law student at UNH who says he will not sign the agreement, and plans to take online classes instead.
He says that students still have concerns about what they’re agreeing to.
“They don’t advertise all of the unknowns. So I think in failing to do so, they’re not adequately expressing the real risks to students,” he said.
As of Friday, students had compiled a document with 143 questions about the agreement, accommodations, student workers and staff, and testing protocol for COVID-19.
Marshall and others sent a letter to university system leadership earlier this week with a list of demands, including asking them to remove the “risk of responsibility" clause from the agreement.
In an earlier statement, a university system spokesperson said the consent agreement is not the same thing as a liability waiver.
The students, in their letter to the administration, expressed how the roll-out of the return-to-school policy struck them - and their trust in the university. “The content and timing of the Informed Consent Agreement and your failure to answer all but the easiest of student questions has made us concerned that the University does not have our best interests at heart,” the letter states.
Other demands include answering all 143 questions before any deadline to sign the agreement; removal of the “Tuition Obligations” paragraph, and that the university offer more flexibility for workers who don’t feel safe returning to campus.
“Workers deserve access to accommodations for remote work that will keep them and their families safe,” the letter says. “We are concerned for our faculty, staff and teaching assistants.”
Marshall says another demand is for the university to cut ties with the American Council for Education, “which is representing USNH’s interests in Congress, by advocating for corporate immunity.”
The system’s Board of Trustees will meet on Tuesday to vote on approving re-opening plans for the fall at the University of New Hampshire, Plymouth State University, and Keene State College.
Read the letter to the USNH trustees below: