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Letter: Demands in the face of coronavirus crisis

letter to the editor

Dear President Price, Provost Kornbluth, Vice President Cavanaugh, Vice Provost McMahon, Director Vaughn, Vice Provost Bennett, Dean McClain and Director Rabil,

As COVID-19 disrupts the functioning of the university, Duke administration must consider appropriate actions in light of public health considerations and take substantive steps to protect all members of the university community. As the university shifts to remote teaching with campus restrictions in place, the Duke administration must ensure that these changes do not put severe economic strain on individuals. To adequately support the Duke community, particularly those in the most precarious situations, the administration must: 

  1. Guarantee that all workers, whether university employees, contract, subcontract or student workers, do not face loss of pay due to the suspension of university operations. All hourly workers whose duties are reduced should be compensated for the hours they would have worked if the disruptions had not occurred and this compensation should continue until normal work schedules resume. All salaried and stipended workers should be guaranteed their full salaries and stipends. No worker of any classification should be terminated while these restrictions remain in place;
  2. Provide housing and an adequate food plan for all students petitioning due to housing insecurities, unsafe family situations or an inability to return home. This should entail immediately withdrawing the policy of removing DukeCard and residential access for students still on campus. In the case where housing does become unavailable, on-campus food plans must be converted to funding for off-campus meals if dining halls remain closed, and subsidized transportation to and from these locations must be provided. Housing, either on- or off-campus should also be provided;
  3. Provide unlimited paid sick time, with full health benefits, for workers to take care of themselves, family or household members who are sick. In addition, provide paid time off, even for workers who can work remotely, for child care in the event that schools and child care centers close; 
  4. Commit to fully covering the costs of coronavirus testing, treatment and vaccination through the Duke Student Health Insurance Plan. In addition, immediately waive any prescription drug regulations in Duke-sponsored insurance plans to ensure a supply of needed medications that is adequate in the event that individuals must self-isolate;
  5. Reimburse all costs incurred by students and workers who are asked to leave campus, including but not limited to: transportation costs; storage costs; rent for those displaced from Duke housing and food and living expenses for students who lose access to meal plans. Any “non-essential” items not being shipped to students should be partially financially compensated (e.g. required clothes that are unduly expensive to replace); 
  6. Ensure that any students on F-1 or J-1 visas are able to maintain their visa status as courses shift online and support students who must leave the country. If necessary, provide free legal guidance on immigration status for all international students;
  7. Ensure that international students will not be required to leave housing to contend with the danger of flights through high-risk countries or through countries where the extent of the spread of coronavirus is uncertain or possibly misreported;
  8. Guarantee that policies will be nondiscriminatory so that no individuals or groups in our community are unfairly targeted (e.g. international students, minority students, students from low-income backgrounds, LGBTQI+ students, students with disabilities) and so that any policies do not perpetuate the harmful discrimination that often comes with public health emergencies.

While the university adapts to rapidly changing conditions, Duke has a responsibility to minimize the financial uncertainty for all members of our community and ensure that all individuals have the support and resources to follow appropriate public health measures. We ask the administration to take these commonsense steps to protect the public’s health and the well-being of all students and employees. As members of the Duke community, we are ready to work together. 


Liv McKinney, President of Duke Student Government
Jamal Burns, Co-President of Duke Life
Emma Cairns, President of BDU
Shyam Pradheep, Co-President of International Association
Matthew Taft & Austin Wadle, Co-Chairs of the Duke Graduate Students Union 
Tyler Lian, President of Duke Asian Students Association
Jaewon Moon, President of Duke Asian American Alliance
Naomi Hodges & Kaelah Brauher, Co-Presidents of Duke Students With Interracial Legacies 
Jaewon Moon & Olivia Simpson, Co-Chairs of Duke Chronicle Community Editorial Board
Benjamin Romero, President of Mi Gente


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