Letter to the Editor: University responds to student open letter


Courtesy / Meghan Landgren

Philomena Mantella, University President

The Lanthorn recieved a response to student Chloe Harpst’s open-letter to GV President Philomena Mantella August 6. This piece has not been altered from it’s original content in President Mantella’s submission. Mantella gave the Lanthorn permission to print this letter in its entirety. 


Dear Lanthorn Editor,

Your paper recently published an open letter to me from GVSU student Chloe Harpst, which outlined her concerns and questions that other members of our community likely share. I want to applaud the stated goal of the letter to help us unify and be stronger together and address all the issues and questions I can. We all have to remember that the virus’ path is unpredictable, and governmental regulations are not ours to make, so we must be watchful and flexible, and unite to keep our campus as safe as possible during this pandemic.

Harpst rightly points out that there is a good bit of misinformation about COVID-19 that people share on social media platforms. It is important to note that the university is following the best health and safety guidelines available to us, and we would like our community to access the same information.

Here are credible sources for information to keep our community informed:


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The State of Michigan Coronavirus page

Grand Valley State University – Lakers Together Fall 2020


The Lakers Together site is continually updated as decisions are made and requirements change. It’s also been a priority for us to communicate regularly through email, social media and town halls, and by providing answers to questions sent to [email protected].


Yet, we understand in uncertain times, concerns and questions remain.

It’s important for all students to take advantage of the options you have in course delivery. If you have concerns about face-to-face, choose online. If you prefer to be in-person, choose face-to-face and hybrid courses. Faculty have worked hard to maximize opportunities for students, and advisors are available to assist with schedules. This is a dynamic situation, so if your circumstances change, reach out, and we will do our absolute best to help you.

Here is information addressing the questions posed in the letter, keeping in mind conditions may change and policies may be updated:

  • It is required that all faculty, staff and students fill out the self-assessment daily beginning August 17, 2020. Just as with face coverings, we will start with care and curiosity, move to educate, then look for a remedy, which could include a failure to comply report to Student Affairs or Human Resources. It would be considered a violation of university policy and would be actionable.
  • Anyone who tests positive needs to isolate for a minimum of 10 days. Faculty would be paid while isolating.
  • If someone in a class tests positive, the class would receive a “may have been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID” notice. If someone is considered a close contact, generally defined as being within six feet for 15 minutes or longer, they will be contacted by the local health department and instructed to be tested and quarantine for a minimum of 14 days.
  • While possible, it is unlikely an entire class would need to be quarantined. Each situation would be assessed by the university in partnership with the local health department.
  • A new campus testing protocol will be released by August 17, after finalizing agreements to expand capacity. Here is the current information:

Students can be tested at two university sites:

Allendale:  GVSU Campus Health Center, 42nd & Pierce

Grand Rapids:  GVSU Family Health Center

Free testing is available in Kent County at these sites. The State of Michigan has also published a testing site finder with a “no cost” filter.

  • Individuals with health conditions that may require accommodation are encouraged to establish care with a health care provider and contact Disability Support Resources. Medical documentation is required to go without a face covering.
  • Students who are uninsured are encouraged to discuss their situation with the billing office at the medical practice, which may have recommendations for coverage. One option might be the GVSU student plan through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
  • If a student in a face-to-face course must isolate or quarantine, instructors will work with the student to make appropriate accommodations.
  • Students feeling overwhelmed should contact the University Counseling Center.
  • Students will not be asked to sign a waiver to return to campus.

This information and much more is in our Lakers Together Protecting Each Other handbook. The point of all our communication to the Laker community is to provide as much assurance as we can about our plans and about our commitment to one another. Lakers Together – it’s not just a website.

I thank you for your questions, care and support, and for using this universal and difficult experience to model good choices and pull together to support one another.




Philomena V. Mantella, President