Barnard College Student Questioned By Dean Why She Isn’t Quarantined in Her Room

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A Chinese student at Barnard College in New York City was scolded after she was found not to be in her dormitory while on self-quarantine during the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has asked travelers from China to self-quarantine for 14 days and students who do so should be excused from schools, such as Barnard, during this period. The quarantine is voluntary and students are allowed to leave their dorms.

Despite that, sophomore Sylvia Su shared on Instagram an email from a deputy dean, Natalie Friedman, who was notified of the international student’s absence from her dorm room when a meal was delivered to her.

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“I am very concerned that you are not staying in your room during this period of quarantine,” Friedman said. “I understand there may be appropriate reasons for leaving your room (e.g. using the bathroom), but not being present suggests you may be going to class or otherwise using campus facilities. If this is the case, you are not following the requirements made clear to you by Executive Director of Health and Wellness MJ Murphy.”

She added: “Not following such directives of a college officer may result in a conduct charge, as stated in item 6 of the Student Code of Conduct. If you are not there when dinner will be delivered, I will need to follow-up with our Conduct office.”

Su replied that she was out two times in the afternoon, another time to take a shower and later went back to use the bathroom. She didn’t see anyone delivering food to her room during those times.

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“If you are deeply concerned about my absence, I would love to suggest checking security CCTV if available. If basic trust and privacy cannot be given at this point, please arrange an exact time when food will be there at my door so I can arrange accordingly. A better method can also be letting the front desk of Hewitt to forbid my exit,” Su responded.

In her Instagram post, Su wrote: “people have been asking me what is happening at #barnard and this is what is happening to me. i am helpless, angry, and this is unacceptable. my parents paid my tuition because they want me to learn knowledge, make friends, and to see another world where i can become a freer and more unique individual regardless my race, nationality, and sexuality. but now im here. like this.”

The Gothamist reported that more than 200 people have commented on Su’s post on Facebook, with many criticizing how the dean handled the situation.

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Su did not immediately respond or offer further comment to NextShark before publication.

Barnard College issued an apology to Su on her Instagram post: “The email from Dean Friedman was neither appropriate nor acceptable. We recognize what a difficult time this is for you and our goal is to support you in any way we can. I know Dean Friedman reached out to apologize for the email. Dean Grinage is also available if you have additional questions or concerns.”

In a statement online, Leslie Grinage, a dean of the college, thanked everyone involved in the quarantine.

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“This is an extraordinary inconvenience to the students involved, and an act of selflessness as they do their part to keep our community and themselves safe and healthy. We are immensely grateful for the responsiveness of the students who are affected and we are committed to doing everything we can to support them,” she said.

She explained that the college tried to address the “missteps and miscommunications.”

A spokesperson for Barnard College told NextShark:

“Following the guidance of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Barnard has joined other area schools in suggesting that any students who have recently returned from mainland China voluntarily self-quarantine themselves for 14 days. Thirteen students who live on Barnard’s campus agreed to do that and, of those, all but four have already completed their 14-day precaution. The remaining four, none of whom have exhibited any symptoms, will have completed it by early next week. Barnard has and will continue to provide assistance and support to these students. To be clear, none of our students have exhibited any symptoms whatsoever and none are suspected of having the Novel Coronavirus 2019.”

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