Open letter to returning students from your community

By

Dear returning Stanford community members,

As your student representatives, many of whom currently live on campus, we are happy that you have been able to return this spring! This opportunity to return results from community efforts and is a win for us all.

While students living on campus have experienced some parts of campus life — we still do laundry in the laundry rooms, some of us get food from the dining halls and we hear the bell tower chime on quiet evenings — we miss life on campus as it was. We miss Treehouse; we miss visiting community centers; we even miss riding through the Circle of Death (although perhaps not biking in the rain). Like you, we are excited for life on campus to begin edging closer toward normal and to share this space, beloved by many, with more members of our community. However, we need to work together to continue caring for our community, balancing our desires for independence and social interaction with the responsible behavior required for protecting all of our safety and mental well-being. For these reasons, we want to speak directly and frankly to you so that, as you arrive and join us, we can continue keeping Stanford safe for everyone.

As you settle into a rhythm for the quarter, we want to emphasize the importance of prioritizing community health and well-being in your personal decisions. That means each of us must value others’ discomfort as we would value our own, recognizing that risks that seem okay to one person may be unacceptable to others. Weekly student COVID-19 cases recently dropped to zero for the first time since November, which is a success we want to maintain. But this success will only be possible with conscientious community effort. We recognize that everyone on campus has agreed to adhere to the Campus Compact, but we urge everyone to make decisions that are respectful of all community members.

In pursuit of these goals, we are putting forward four community norms for everyone in the on-campus community this spring:

First, get tested twice weekly. This is a requirement of the Campus Compact, but more importantly, testing is incredibly necessary for the community. It allows for the rapid identification of positive cases, which in turn protects us all. Getting tested twice weekly is one of the best ways to care for your friends and community. As a reminder: testing is free, nearby and easily accessible. Even after you get vaccinated, being tested twice weekly will continue to protect us all against new variants of COVID-19. (More information here.)

Second, be honest. If you engage in potentially unsafe behavior, please inform anyone you plan to be in close contact with in the time before your next two consecutive negative test results. We should all practice this kind of honesty. Putting others in potentially unsafe situations without their knowledge is at minimum disrespectful, if not immoral. Let the other party decide what feels safe for them. Everyone should respect their friends’ boundaries, provide opportunities to make fully-informed decisions and encourage others to do what feels safe, even when this involves temporarily distancing.

Third, normalize minimizing contact or canceling social engagements if you’re experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, no matter how small. While FOMO (fear of missing out) is real, we have all witnessed the impact that unsafe contact can have on others. Especially with the spread of new variants, the end of this pandemic rests on each of us, as does the welfare of our community. We need to protect each other; sometimes this will involve being unconventional in the ways we socialize in order to keep each other safe. 

Lastly, if you are not getting enough safe opportunities to socialize, advocate for more. Instead of engaging in unsafe socializing, let’s work together to develop systems that safely provide the social outlets and support that we need on campus. Every group signing this letter continues to advocate for more safe-socializing opportunities. While our events are improving with time and experience, we know there is more we can all do. Remember that your voices and actions are important, and, whether you choose to reach out to CAs, RAs, deans or student representatives from the groups signing this letter, expressing your concerns is the first step toward better social experiences for all.

A final note about why your behavior is important to others: On the whole, students on campus have worked to safeguard both individual and community health, and these efforts have prevented the kinds of situations that would require harsher enforcement of the Compact by the University. Evidence of “superspreader” events or spikes in cases would jeopardize this progress and potentially jeopardize the opportunity for other students to return to campus in the fall.

As we enter the second year of a pandemic that has taken so much from so many, we understand the need for social interactions outside of Zoom. However, these interactions must be conducted responsibly, with respect for everyone’s health and safety. This quarter, we urge everyone to prioritize safety, health and honesty for the well-being of ourselves, each other and the whole community.

Sincerely,

COVID-19 Graduate Student Advisory Committee to VPSA:

Jamie Fine, PhD Modern Thought and Literature, Co-Chair

Cat Sanchez, PhD Sociology, Co-Chair

Ayinwi Muma, PhD MS&E, GSAC Member

Lucy Xu, PhD Biology, GSAC Member

Jason Beckman, PhD Student, GSAC Member

ASSU Graduate Student Council:

Kari Barclay PhD ’21, GSC Co-Chair

Latifah Hamzah, GSC Councilor

Brooks Benard, GSC School of Medicine Representative 

ASSU Undergraduate Senate:

Micheal Brown ’22

Emily Nichols ’23

Gabby Crooks ’23

Alain Perez ’23

Princess Vongchanh ’23

Daryn Rockett ’23

Michaela Phan ’23

Kobe Hopkins ’22

Tim Vrakas ’21

ASSU Executive:

Vianna Vo ’21 & Chris Middleton ’21, ASSU Executives

Will Shan ’22, ASSU Executive Cabinet

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