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Students voice their concerns amidst uncertainty surrounding coronavirus pandemic and university changes

The entrance of BYUH and the Flag Circle on a cloudy day.

BYU–Hawaii released a statement on March 23 in response to the Stay At Home/Work From Home Order issued for the State of Hawaii through April 30. The university announced students should return home, if possible, as soon as possible. The statement says BYUH can no longer guarantee work for all student employees, however, university officials still want to accommodate the students.

In response to the growing concern, BYUH President John Tanner issued a statement aimed to clarify the situation. He began by addressing rumors of students being forced to leave and go home immediately and said these were false.

President Tanner said, “Yes, we are encouraging students to return home where and when possible . We recognize that this is not always possible.” However, he said it is up to the individual student to decide “if and when to return home.”

Karl Agustin Santiago, a senior from the Philippines majoring in political science, shared, "It's stressful to be an international student right now. There is no definite, straightforward and concrete answer to whether we can stay here on campus or not."

Santiago expressed concern after hearing the university cannot guarantee work for all student employees because he depends on his student wage to make ends meet.

"I know my country is on lockdown, so the school technically cannot force me to go home. However, my country's lockdown is only until April 14. What will happen to me after that? Will I be able to stay? I do not know."

Santiago also voiced his concern with the level of schoolwork. "Amidst all these stress about going home, I still have assignments to think about. It would be nice if the school could postpone the assignments until we get clear instructions about going home."

Ron Chand, a senior from Fiji majoring in accounting, echoed Santiago’s thoughts. Chand said, “We are literally failing classes right now [trying] to figure out what we are going to do, where we are going to go.”

Chand said it has been frustrating as he tried to find out what his next steps are because he had to go from department to department trying to find answers and “find out the full picture.”

After the university’s initial bulletin announcement saying it was encouraging all domestic and international students to return home, Chand, along with several other students, wrote a letter to the Polynesian Cultural Center and BYUH presidencies.

In this letter, Chand said he plead for the school to reverse the decision asking students to return home. This was in large part because students were concerned about spreading the coronavirus to their home communities, many of whom would not have the means to combat an outbreak.

Addressing the concerns about student employment, President Tanner said, “I also want to reassure part-time student employees, including IWORK students, that we have committed to keep you … through the semester.”

He said although it will be difficult to guarantee employment if the mandate to work from home persists, the school is “particularly mindful of the needs of our neediest students and will do our best to help you manage.”

Chand said he wanted transparency from the university and know what was going on and why. So when Chand saw the additional special bulletin, he said he was grateful, and felt the university had heard his and the other students’ pleas.

According to the University Bulletin, International students should contact International Student Services (ISS) at internationalstudent@byuh.edu. Domestic students can email deanofstudents@byuh.edu if they have questions and concerns.

BYUH will also provide limited travel assistance to students who can demonstrate significant financial need. April 18 is the deadline for this travel assistance.