Tufts Community Union Senate shared a post on their Facebook page on Feb. 19 about their COVID-19 Communication Project in cooperation with University Infection Control Health Director Michael Jordan and Medical Director of Health Services Marie Caggiano. The project will allow for the clear dissemination of information about updated safety protocols and the status of infection on the different campuses through the use of TCU Senate's social media platforms.
Meeting on a biweekly basis, TCU Senate members Sarah Wiener, Sharif Hamidi and Mathew Peña will work closely with Jordan and Caggiano to best present the latest updates regarding COVID-19 to the Tufts community each week.
In an email to the Daily, Jordan and Caggiano explained what the work will look like from their end.
"Student Senate leaders and we will meet twice monthly to review current case numbers and trends and to support interpretation of campus-specific COVID prevalence and its Medford-Somerville campus-wide health implications," Jordan and Caggiano said. "We will answer questions and brainstorm strategies to communicate with the general student body."
They emphasized that TCU Senate both suggested and is leading the project.
The TCU senators will act as the liaison between the student body and Tufts leaders on COVID-19 protocols and guidelines. Sharif Hamidi, TCU treasurer and a community health major, explained the goals of the partnership and the way the process will work.
“Our goal is to solicit students' questions and concerns, and share them with two people who are very well-equipped to answer them — all three of us [on TCU Senate] have been sharing that responsibility, as well as recording and disseminating their answers,” Hamidi wrote in an email to the Daily.
Sarah Wiener, TCU president, explained the reason why they thought students need to have clearer access to guidelines and the current situation on campus in an email to the Daily.
“We've heard a lot about students feeling alarmed and anxious as a result of irregularly timed emails that give us updates on COVID-19 protocols …This way when students are making decisions about their day-to-day behaviors, they can be informed about what X amount of days with a Y increase in case counts should mean for them,” Wiener said.
Wiener also explained what the group has done so far, and what they hope to do in the near future.
"We have made a rough draft of what the first communication would look like based on a weekly conversation with Dr. Caggiano and Dr. Jordan," Wiener said. "After getting the bullet points approved by them, we are now working on internal mechanisms in [the] Senate to make the posts happen regularly every week."
Hamidi also emphasized the concerns of students and the benefit of collective knowledge about how to maintain safety on campus.
“The rapidly developing nature of the pandemic means that the university’s administration has to constantly monitor data and nimbly adjust to changing circumstances, which has understandably left some students feeling confused or inadequately informed regarding public health components," Hamidi said. "And of course, none of us are qualified to answer these kinds of questions the way that Dr. Jordan or Dr. Caggiano are."
The TCU members were inspired by a COVID-19 governmental communication program.
“We thought of various types of media and what students are receptive to … We talked some about New York Governor Cuomo's regular updates for his community and thought about how we could regularly communicate information from that,” Wiener said.
This project was also informed by a meeting between the executive board of TCU Senate and Dean of Student Affairs Camille Lizarríbar at the end of last semester, which was held to discuss what safety protocols would look like for the spring. Lizarríbar then connected the executive board of TCU Senate with Jordan and Caggiano, and they spoke about issues in COVID-19 communication.
“We asked what [the] Senate could do to support Tufts’ COVID response and to ease confusion and anxiety among students, and this project was the solution we came to,” Wiener said.
Hamidi said that he, along with Wiener and Peña, is glad to be part of the program and part of the efforts to share this vital information with the Tufts community.
“I know all three of us feel very fortunate that we get to meet with Dr. Jordan and Dr. Caggiano on a regular basis, and Tufts is lucky to have two incredible leaders like them directing the university’s response to the pandemic,” Hamidi said.