On March 9th, a message was sent to WSU’s student body with a section heading of “Facts not Fear.” I’m concerned about both facts and fear as it relate to the roll-out of messages from WSU administration.
1) On Friday, March 6th, President Schulz tweeted one message that I believe to be lacking proper context and retweeted something that included misinformation about COVID 19. His first tweet was about how WSU will be in session after Spring Break and that students should plan to return. No mention was made of making decisions with current information, or on the basis of wider public health. More alarmingly, President Schulz retweeted a tweet that included the false claim that COVID 19 is no more worrisome than the flu (I’ll grant the speaker was speaking for themselves “I would much more worry about influenza”), but COVID 19 is projected to be at least 10 times deadlier than the flu, if not significantly more. Together, I believe these messages erode trust in the decision-making process and authority of administration. (I’ll also grant that a March 8th tweet — with significantly lower engagement — said that WSU would continue to monitor developments.)
2) It’s my understanding that multiple questions about COVID 19 from the last Faculty Senate meeting went unanswered, most pertinently: what would trigger a move toward the social distancing step of moving classes online? It’s a great concern that WSU would wait until a case showed up in Pullman (multiple cases have been reported in Spokane in the past two days), which would cause fear and anxiety that we didn’t move online sooner. There are multiple examples of universities taking this proactive step in the past few days. Additionally, in the student email, moving towards online classes was given no connection to the benefits for public health