Students, faculty, and community members concerned about UVM’s reopening plan

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Some people are worried UVM doesn’t have an adequate response to potential spikes in cases. Students, faculty, and Burlington city council members spoke out Friday morning against re-opening.

“The UVM administration is the group that’s creating the conditions for an outbreak while saying an outbreak shouldn’t happen,” said Cobalt Tolbert, a rising senior. “And that’s just totally backwards.”

He says as much as he wants to return to class on campus, he simply cannot do so in good conscience. Tolbert is also part of Union of Students, an on-campus student group which recently surveyed 100 of his classmates for their thoughts about re-opening.

“Responses were myriad but one thing is clear, that no one has faith that this plan will work long term,” he said. “Most students believe were going to inevitably shut down.”

Besides returning to dorms and classrooms thousands of students will also move back into Burlington neighborhoods, off-campus. This leads to concern over partying and other social distancing violations that go unsupervised.

“My greatest worry as a citizen two blocks from here and watches these parties every night is whats going on off campus,” said Paul Bierman, geology professor at UVM. “I do believe we can regulate what happens on campus, but I believe we’re totally incapable of controlling off campus.”

Bierman has been a professor at UVM for 27 years. He says the university has no response plan in place if someone tests positive, on or off-campus.

“I asked the administration what our plan for shutting down was and when,” he said. “The response I got in an email was ‘we will know when it’s time to shutdown.'”

City councilors agree, they don’t want to lose the progress Vermont has made in the last several months.

“If this starts to go really sideways, we have a way to pull the plug responsibly so that were not just flailing in the wind looking for solutions in the moment when we have large scale community transmission taking place,” said Max Tracy. “That is a matter of life and death and we need clearer answers from the university on that point.”

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