“I understand that there are risks of exposure to the virus by symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers,” the agreement says. “I recognize that the risks of exposure to COVID-19 include sharing space with others and interpersonal communication. I assume the risks associated with arriving at the University of New Hampshire, including the risk of exposure to COVID-19. I confirm my commitment to participate in the relative safety of the campus and I agree to participate in all academic activities. For Charity Reed, another rising senior from THE UNH who did not sign the approval agreement, the big question for her is what awaits the university around the tests before arrival. Beyond lobbying for immunity from complaints, UNH is committed to ensuring that, regardless of what is happening at the federal level, the university system will not be at risk of monitoring the inability to protect students and workers. UNH is asking students to sign an “informed agreement” that the university says approves health and safety protocols. However, the agreement contains the statement that, by signing, students “take responsibility for the risks associated with admission to the University of New Hampshire, including the risk of exposure to COVID-19.” The UNH also informs students that the agreement is not a waiver of responsibility. Georgetown law professor Heidi Li Feldman said the statement was dishonest because it was the standard language companies use to avoid liability. Other schools, such as the University of Alabama, removed the same language from their form of recognition after the student outcry.
The UNH should follow Alabama`s lead. Student Community President Nicholas Fitzgerald, a dual major in history and political science, accepted students` desire to delay the signing deadline so they could make a more comfortable and informed decision. The UNH must oppose corporate immunity and remove the “risk-taking” language from the “informed approval agreement.” At the moment, many students and workers do not feel safe when they return to campus, but they do not feel they have a real choice in this matter. Jones says the information agreement is “not the same as an abandonment of responsibility.” The agreement stipulates that students who choose to return to campus are required to submit a negative COVID-19 test prior to their arrival, must be regularly screened and isolated throughout the semester when tested positive.