(The following Letter to the Editor has been submitted by three Luther College students and one recent Luther alum):
"(We have) concerns about the actions taken by Luther College to initiate mandatory in-person instruction on Monday, January 11th. Students and professors are required to be in-person unless they have a documented medical condition that makes them high risk. A petition created by student leaders was spread over social media, protesting this decision. This petition outlined the risks of in-person instruction and proposed to continue online instruction with an optional on-campus residency until the end of January. In just four days, signatures were collected of over 1,200 people, with more than 680 student signatures (38 percent of the total student population). The results of this petition were sent to Luther College's Administration team in the evening of Sunday, January 3rd. Along with the petition, there were multiple emails to the administration sent by students, alumni, family members, and other supporters addressing both individual and community concerns. The administration did not respond directly to those who created the petition. However, within 24 hours, Luther College President Jenifer K. Ward sent out an email ignoring the concerns of the students and stating their intent to continue with in-person instruction.
In the email, Ward cites a decrease in cases over Winter Break. Winter Break is mostly a closed break for students, meaning cases decreased simply because campus capacity severely decreased over the scheduled break. Luther College does not have widespread testing as of right now (obtaining tests is currently in the works) and there is no mandatory quarantine period for students returning to campus, unless they notify the college they have been traveling internationally. Luther has a break for students at the end of January, which marks the end of Quarter 2. If we bring students back for two weeks, allow them to leave, and then bring them back, we are shattering the "bubble" we are seeking to create on our small campus. Administration is insistent that they care about our wellbeing and safety, but time and time again, we are met with lukewarm policy followed by weak enforcement. Many of us do not feel safe and we are not being heard."