Harvard, MIT students & faculty defiant amid colleges' coronavirus commands

Campuses across the country are closing campus and moving to online classes due to the coronavirus outbreak

Students at Harvard and MIT held sit-ins to protest the closures, which have affected student housing.

With colleges and universities closing across the country due to coronavirus concerns, students and faculty at some campuses have held protests over decisions affecting on-campus housing. 

Harvard Law students protested outside the Dean of Students’ office while resident advisors met with campus officials to discuss concerns from students who live on campus. One student, Felipe Hernandez, told the Harvard Crimson that Harvard’s decision to vacate the campus has “put a lot of students into panic, anxiety, emotional distress.”

“Students couldn’t sleep overnight, couldn’t eat. People broke down crying because they thought they had to move out as early as Friday,” Hernandez added. 

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According to the Harvard Crimson, Dean of Students Marcia Sells sent an email to law students stating that Harvard Law School would provide financial assistance to students who needed to travel to relocate. Sells also wrote that students would not be evicted without a place to stay. 

At MIT, approximately 50 undergraduate students, graduate students, and some faculty held a sit-in at the school’s Department of Student Life. 

According to organizers, the protesters were calling for MIT to reconsider the petitions from students who have requested to stay on campus. They also asked for international students to receive housing. 

Lilly Chin, an MIT graduate student and one of the organizers, lamented that there has been no official response from MIT on what students are supposed to do. 

“There’s also been no discussion of how people can pay for their flights home, the boxes and storage,” Chin said told the Daily Beast.

She also described the dorms as a “warzone.” 

“Everyone was confused and packing frantically. My friend said, ‘All of my family is in China, but they denied my application to stay. When I started asking people about their applications for exemptions, I kept hearing similar stories,” said Chin.

[RELATED: Colleges nationwide respond to coronavirus by canceling in-person classes]

Protest organizer Skye Thompson told Campus Reform that students have not been informed on the process or timeline. 

“There’s still no clear timeline on when appeals will be complete, no public information on how many students will be allowed to stay, where/how they will be allowed to stay,” Thompson said. 

She also added that she is “frustrated, tired, resigned.”

“Students are putting all their efforts into trying to get their friends and peers into safe situations in time, but the dorms are going to be locked in four days, and we’ll have to leave. At that point, there’s not much we can do,” said Thompson.

MIT professor T.L. Taylor shared images of some of the protesters’ posters on Twitter, in which students explained why they could not return home. 


[RELATED: Students stage sit-in, cry racism after prof reads ‘historical document’ containing n-word]

MIT President Rafael Reif previously announced that classes were canceled through March 20 and that undergraduate students would be required to vacate student housing by March 17. 

However, Reif also indicated there would be accommodations for international students.  

Campus Reform reached out to MIT for comment on the protest but received no response in time for publication. 

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