The University of Missouri (Mizzou) has come under fire for their COVID-19 response for the Fall 2020 semester. Many students have expressed concerns, questioning if the university is trying to hide COVID-19 cases by testing as few students as possible. Students have expressed such concerns on social media outlets, including Twitter. In response to accusations of an inappropriate response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mizzou’s Chancellor and the University of Missouri System’s President - Mun Y. Choi - has been accused of blocking students on Twitter who’ve been critical of Mizzou’s COVID-19 response.
A Mizzou graduate and attorney, Christopher Bennet, reached out to students who had posted on their Twitter accounts about being blocked by Choi. Some of those students agreed to let Bennet represent them on the matter. In response, he sent a letter requesting that Choi unblock these students. Bennet stated in his letter,“Not only is it immoral and repugnant for President Choi to block students and other persons on social media who are trying to raise awareness of campus safety issues in the middle of a global pandemic, it is also unlawful.” Christian Basi, a University of Missouri spokesman, spoke on Choi unblocking the students. “[Bennet’s letter] did play a role, along with the feedback that was received, and there were several conversations that took place,” he said. Basi did not know specifically why Choi had decided to block these accounts, but mentioned that many of the accounts tweeted harsh criticism, some with foul language. “There was nothing productive or constructive about the tweets that were tagging him,” Basi said. Faculty from Mizzou’s Journalism school released a letter explaining their disappointment at the hindrance of the students’ freedom of expression. “We, the undersigned faculty members, want to express our disappointment in a series of actions by University of Missouri System President and MU Chancellor Mun Choi that — intentionally or not — contradict the "Missouri Method" for which our school is justifiably famous. His move to block students and others from his Twitter account is the latest of these.”, the letter states.
One of the issues students have highlighted on Twitter is the lack of access to COVID-19 testing for students. Mizzou requires a referral in order to be given access to a COVID test, making it difficult for students to get tested. One student tweeted that she was denied a test at the beginning of September, and would only be granted one if her work place required it even though she presented with COVID-19 symptoms. “They didn’t want to report my case,” she said. Other tweets have claimed that the school provided meals for students in quarantine have been insufficient. In addition, more students have claimed that the contact tracing through the school has been less than thorough.
Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) seems to make COVID testing more available to its students than Mizzou, one of Missouri S&T’s sister schools. “COVID testing is available for all students.” Dennis Goodman from Missouri S&T Student Health stated. “Students with symptoms, those who are contacts to positive cases, and those just wanting a test can all be accommodated. We just ask that students call ahead for an appointment.” Missouri S&T is hoping to make testing available to faculty and staff in the near future as well. Missouri S&T Student Health reiterated that every positive case is reported to the health department, as required by state law. Goodman said, “The University receives no student specific information on individuals who test positive. All medical information is privacy protected as part of the student’s electronic health record, but the University does receive unidentified data on testing results.” Missouri S&T is preparing for the future with follow-up plans to monitor students as more information about the potential long term effects of COVID-19 is uncovered.
Picture provided by diversity.missouri.edu.