Hundreds of students, staff members send letter to U of A interim chancellor addressing COVID-19 concerns

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – More than 250 University of Arkansas students and staff members have signed a letter to acting chancellor Dr. Charles Robinson saying they feel in danger due to the 15% positivity rate and little to no guidance regarding COVID-19 on campus.

“Any community member at the University of Arkansas should feel safe,” said professor Lance Miller. “A number of us don’t. They should feel that the university is taking this pandemic seriously and I can’t say that their actions support that.”

The letter asks the university to pursue all options, including through legal means, for a vaccine mandate on campus, especially if face-to-face instruction is going to continue being the number one priority.”Why don’t you challenge it legally?” Miller asked. “The university has resources to do it, they have lawyers, they can pay the bill.”

Graduate student Kathryn Dzurilla and professor Lance Miller signed the letter. Both noted the need for a remote learning option for both students and staff while COVID-19 remains a threat.

“People who could not get accommodations were left with the decision of okay well, ‘Do I stay and put myself at risk or do I leave and lose my health insurance, lose my tuition waiver?” Dzurilla said.

The letter also requests additional measures like rapid-result testing and contact tracing on campus and states requests for accommodations to teach, work, or learn remotely by faculty, staff, and students with legitimate health risks, or who live with family members who are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, are being rejected without explanation.

A spokesperson for the U of A declined to interview but provided a statement.

We are aware of the letter. From the beginning of the pandemic, the university’s COVID-19 guidelines have been available at health.uark.edu/coronavirus; these guidelines and our proactive steps and strategies as a campus consistent with those guidelines, have always prioritized the health and well-being of our community. The guidelines were created in alignment with guidance from the CDC and the Arkansas Department of Health and will continue to be adjusted as needed in the best interests of the health and safety of our campus and larger community.”

JOHN THOMAS, UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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