We write today in support of our students and their leaders who have been presented with a “consent” document that sends the wrong message and puts our students, their parents, and us in an incredibly awkward position. If you are not yet aware, you should know that students are being forced to sign an “informed consent” Agreement before being allowed to return to campus:
Direct link to form: https://www.plymouth.edu/webapp/informed_consent/PSUInformedConsent.pdf
Link to sign form electronically: http://go.plymouth.edu/informedconsent
In his email of July 28, Marlin Collingwood stated “we have been in communication with PSU Student Senate leadership regarding the Informed Consent Agreement.” While this may technically be true, it implies that student leaders approved of the Agreement, which was and remains not true. In fact, we now all have had the opportunity to read letters from two prominent student leaders vigorously opposing the Agreement. If you have not read these letters, we strongly encourage you to see what these students are saying in their own voices.
Since then, the PSU-AAUP has learned:
- Student leaders initially posted these letters to the PSU Student Facebook page, but this post was taken down by PSU administrators without the author’s consent.
- When the Agreement policy was put in place, groups of students already enrolled in summer courses were immediately locked out of Moodle and myPlymouth until they signed the electronic signature form. In many cases, students learned about this policy and were forced to agree to the terms of “consent” within moments of needing to log into Moodle to attend a Zoom class.
The PSU-AAUP stands firmly in support of these student leaders’ right to voice their opinions. We expect all leaders in the administration will be transparent and honest regarding responses from students, as should always be the case. Any breach of this ethic should be investigated, with violators held to account.
The current consent document and protocol are obviously flawed. The administration’s broader efforts toward “consent” and the language of the current document give many the impression that PSU relinquishes responsibility and cannot be held accountable for our health and welfare. If the University cannot provide a truly safe environment, obviously we should not open.
We demand that the PSU President Donald Birx suspend use of this document unless or until it can be revised to meet the high standards we require of informed consent for other purposes at this University, such as in our IRB process.
We also strongly urge everyone in the administration to consider how this document and protocol are perceived by our students, their parents, and the public given our paramount responsibility to protect health and safety—and the importance of maintaining the trust of those who rely on us to take responsibility for those in our care.
The Executive Committee of the Plymouth State University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors