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UCS votes to endorse call to action from Students for Equitable Pandemic Response

Demands of coalition’s letter include eliminating out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 related treatment under Brown student healthcare, protecting wages of temporary workers until June 30

The Undergraduate Council of Students voted to endorse a call to action letter written by the coalition Students for Equitable Pandemic Response at the last UCS general body meeting of the academic year Wednesday evening.

The coalition, which was recently formed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, is calling for University administrators to work towards addressing issues of “healthcare, employment, academic expectations, room & board and the Rhode Island community,” according to the document.

Coalition leader Samy Amkieh ’21 presented the document to the Council over video conference and answered questions from general body members.

In the letter, the coalition demands that the University ensure no out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 testing and treatment for students enrolled in the Brown healthcare plan, extend coverage of the Student Health Insurance Plan for seniors, protecting the wages of permanent and temporary Brown employees until June 30 and providing hazard pay for those working on-campus during the pandemic.

While Brown is currently unable to extend coverage for seniors independent of the University’s insurer, “what they can do and what we want them to do is bargain on behalf of students and to work with other schools that are under United Healthcare to obtain an extension of coverage into the summer,” Amkieh said.

The letter also expresses support for Universal Pass at Brown, a student campaign that seeks to implement a grading system in which all students would receive a grade of “Pass” or “Pass with Distinction” in their courses this semester, according to the campaign’s Facebook page.

Organizers are also asking the University to pledge $10 million to mutual aid efforts responding to the pandemic in Rhode Island. The University has already contributed $100,000 to the Rhode Island COVID-19 Response Fund, which is supporting local nonprofits in the wake of the pandemic, in addition to partnering with the City of Providence and the Healthy Communities Office to provide a community meal service for Providence residents with “food security needs,” according to an April 3 community-wide letter from President Christina Paxson P’19.

S4EPR’s letter also asks the University to refund a full 50 percent of the semester’s total room and board charges for students, regardless of financial aid status. Since the University vacated campus about halfway through the spring, reimbursement amounts are calculated based on 50 percent of the semester’s total costs and each student’s level of parent contribution, The Herald previously reported. Reimbursement amounts currently vary depending on each student’s parental contribution, housing assignment and meal plan choices.  

“It’s really wonderful that (the campaign is) trying to support students that are most vulnerable,” UCS President William Zhou ’20 said during the meeting.

“We don’t expect open arms, complete agreement for everything we’re calling for (from the administration) — in fact, we’re expecting the opposite,” Amkieh said. He noted the need for student involvement in order to achieve the campaign’s goals, saying that “going forward, we want students to take a stake in this because it affects all of us.”

The Council voted by a simple majority to publicly support the letter.



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