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Hundreds of Vandy students sign petition demanding the return of hybrid learning

They say it's too soon for in-person learning as omicron rages on
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Posted at 5:18 PM, Jan 19, 2022

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Students across Vanderbilt University say it’s too early to return to campus with the omicron variant showing no signs of slowing down.

Members of Vandy Grad Workers United marched through administrative offices Tuesday morning after some say they either got no response for hybrid learning requests or were simply told no. They learned that officials were all working remotely.

Lindsay Breidenbach says they were furious because it felt as though their health and safety were not taken seriously. Breidenbach started the petition having experienced complications with asthma during the delta variant surge. She asked for hybrid learning flexibility, but was denied. Now she worries for anyone with pre-existing conditions who will likely be told the same thing.

The petition found here has already been signed by more than 340 grad students, faculty, and allies. It calls for the administration to make the following changes:

  • All students need to have accessible hybrid options for teaching, learning, and pursuing all other degree activities...no questions asked.
  • Broader testing accessibility on campus with specific and regular testing requirements. Also, provide KN95 masks to all and mail out weekly at-home tests upon requests for those who go to campus.
  • Clear and consistent, university-wide guidelines for those who test positive, including guidance to TAs and instructions on how to navigate COVID-19 policies with their students.

“The fact that I’ve now talked to so many people who have gone through similar things as I have, makes me feel like I do matter and they’re (Vanderbilt) not treating me like I matter,” Breidenbach said.

One student sent us an email where their professor explained that he’d rather not be around students because his age puts him at greater risk.

He told students he placed a request to school administrators for reasonable accommodations for teaching online and says administrators have yet to respond.

“I want them to know that community health is their responsibility and what they’re pushing right now is just not OK. We sent them the petition this morning through email since we couldn’t give it to them in person. We’ve still heard no response,” Breidenbach said.

Breidenbach goes on to say the while the school has offered several KN95 masks, many departments have yet to get any of these masks themselves.

Vanderbilt University sent us the following statement:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us all and continues to do so as we work to find the best solutions possible while taking into account a variety of diverse needs and perspectives.

As it has been from the start, the university’s approach to navigating the pandemic has been guided by science and the input of our team of health experts. As expected, we — like other communities across the country — are seeing a significant increase in COVID-19 cases due to the surge of the omicron variant. While much more contagious than previous variants, evidence shows that the omicron is a significantly less severe illness, especially among vaccinated individuals. The majority of positive cases are reporting mild symptoms that typically resolve within a day or two.

While we understand that many members of our highly vaccinated campus community who test positive may remain asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms, we also must protect the most vulnerable in our community and the surrounding Nashville area, which is why we have taken a number of actions designed to continue in-person learning while making health and safety a priority. These measures include delaying the start of the semester for undergraduates, instituting a Commodores Care period for students and the resumption of required masking indoors, providing KN95 masks for all students, faculty, postdocs and on-campus staff, required testing for returning students, and greatly expanding our testing program for the spring to support the health and safety of our community.

Please refer to this page for additional details and information.

As always, we continue to monitor the latest available data and respond accordingly to protect the health and safety of the Vanderbilt community.”