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Sciences Dean Reiterates Remote-Work Policy After Grad Student Reports Coercion to Come into Lab

A graduate student reported being coerced to report for lab work amid guidance to stay at home amid a global coronavirus pandemic.
A graduate student reported being coerced to report for lab work amid guidance to stay at home amid a global coronavirus pandemic. By MyeongSeo Kim
By Juliet E. Isselbacher and Ethan Lee, Crimson Staff Writers

Dean of Sciences Christopher W. Stubbs reiterated the University’s current remote-work policy in a Wednesday email to divisional chairs and leaders after a graduate student complained they had been coerced to report in person for work at a lab.

In an announcement last week, Stubbs and other administrators mandated all research laboratories affiliated with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences “ramp-down” non-essential activity by March 18 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“To minimize community interactions, we ask that each lab identify at most 2-3 key individuals, in discussion with the department chair, to manage issues such as animal husbandry or essential experiments—those that if discontinued would generate significant financial and data loss,” the administrators wrote.

On Tuesday, Stubbs forwarded a message he received from an unnamed source to divisional chairs and leaders. In the email, the source claimed a graduate student had come to them with concerns that their lab was coercing its students to come in after March 18 — the final day for laboratories to suspend regular operations.

“I had a graduate student ( I will not name) who works in an experimentalist lab (I will not name) that is coercing their students to still come in after tomorrow. Could someone tell faculty that NO ONE is allowed to come in,” the email read. “Because the person I talked to was worried and it sounds like some of their other lab mates were worried as well.”

Stubbs followed the forwarded message with a request that chairs broadcast the remote-work policy to “one and all.”

“Everyone is working remotely. Period,” he wrote.

In an emailed statement to The Crimson, Stubbs wrote that it is crucial scientists follow the recent measures against in-person laboratory activity.

“We are taking a very aggressive stance on social distancing and reducing personnel on campus to essential individuals and those students who were, for a variety of reasons, not able to depart,” Stubbs wrote. “We expect all members of our community to abide by this policy, and any pressure to do otherwise is unacceptable.”

Stubbs added that the graduate student’s concerns were addressed swiftly and positively by the Sciences administration. He encouraged other members of the Sciences to direct similar complaints to supervisors.

“I view this exchange as the system working in our favor- the graduate student reached out to a trusted individual, who brought this to my attention, which in turn prompted immediate action,” Stubbs wrote. “I urge anyone in our community who is aware of actions that are inconsistent with our policies to bring that to a supervisor or Division of Science leader so we can rapidly take corrective action.”

“We take our social responsibility very seriously, and urge everyone to make prudent decisions in the time ahead,” he added.

—Staff writer Juliet E. Isselbacher can be reached at juliet.isselbacher@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @julietissel.

—Staff writer Ethan Lee can be reached at ethan.lee@thecrimson.com.

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