Editor's Note: This letter remains in the condition it was sent and has not been edited.
Although undergraduates living on campus have been instructed at this time to stay where they are and not to return to their items on campus, and online "learning from a distance" strategies have been implemented by the University as per the governor's order, it appears there isn't full transparency on the fact that graduate student researchers have still been required to report to their labs as well as report to work for their PI's (personal investigator/advisor). For example, NSC, the Natural Science Complex building housing the chemistry department closed on Monday this week but reopened for research and activity as normal on Thursday only a day after UB sent out a message to its community that COVID-19 was reported amongst a community member. The College's leadership in this, to continue experimentation and mark it as essential, disregards the true meaning of essential at this time--that is those working in the medical field to assist and aid those ailing from the virus, and those working in food retail and immediate needs of the service industry. The logistical considerations of this are in complete disregard of the CDC's instructions as the workers in NSC and other research areas are numerous with plenty of folks in the age range of 20-40 therefore potentially those who could be asymptomatic and carrying the virus without any clear symptoms or indicators. I wish to bring this information to light to indicate that the University, and in this particular case the College of Arts and Sciences, is treating these graduate workers as essential only for capital gain and to ensure that research does not take a backseat during a time where the world needs to heal and keep hospitals at a steady manageable level. The researchers and graduate students in the college are not at this time working with vaccines, treating those who are ailing, or ensuring that there is a steady food supply for the public. Therefore, they are not essential and are only continuing to exist amongst each other as potential carriers of the virus on our campus. I urge the college, and the University as a whole, to recognize the weight of this and to halt all University activities and to actually enforce it for at least a two week period of true social distancing and isolation. As academics, whether it be researchers of the sciences or of the humanities, I hope that we can look back and be proud of the decisions we made instead of suffering under the weight of 2020 hindsight.
Master's Student in the Department of Comparative Literature