As fall semester approaches, students are increasingly opposing liability waivers and “informed consent” agreements required by colleges as a condition of returning to campus.
Maria Gray, a rising junior at Bates College, said she was “on the fence” about returning to the campus in Lewiston, Me., to take classes in person this fall because of the risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Bates plans to offer smaller class sizes for face-to-face instruction. The liberal arts college will also allow students back into residence halls closed last spring because of the pandemic, which Gray believes to be “an objectively bad idea.” But it wasn’t until she viewed Bates’ “Acknowledgement of Shared Responsibility and Risk” agreement, which all students returning to campus are asked to sign, that Gray decided an in-person college experience wasn’t for her this semester.
“I am voluntarily assuming any and all risks that notwithstanding the college’s best efforts to implement and require compliance with these prevention and mitigation measures I may be exposed to the coronavirus and may become ill with COVID-19, and that such exposure and illness may result in personal injury, illness, temporary or permanent disability, or even death,” the agreement says.
The electronic agreement included a prompt asking Gray to enter her student PIN, which meant she would be “legally agreeing to these statements.” She did not enter her PIN; she forwarded the document to her parents instead.
“That was kind of the last straw,” Gray said. “On the one hand, I guess they’re not sugarcoating it. But on the other hand, if you’re signing that to go back, it’s not safe.”