Suffolk University, Stop Lobbying Congress for Corporate Immunity

Suffolk University

https://commonwealthmagazine.org/education/why-suffolk-community-stands-behind-margaret-mckenna/

Sign our petition to tell Suffolk University to stop lobbying Congress for corporate immunity! Students, employees, and all other faculty should be able to hold Suffolk accountable if it fails to re-open safely.


Petition by
Lindsey Roseman Valente
North Reading, Massachusetts

To: Suffolk University
From: [Your Name]

We demand that Suffolk University oppose and stop lobbying Congress for corporate immunity and not require students to waive liability when we return to campus.

Suffolk University is a member of the American Council on Education, an industry group which is lobbying Congress to demand that big employers, like universities, get immunity from COVID-19 related lawsuits when they re-open.

Corporate immunity occurs when individual agents are not held personally liable for legitimate reasonable actions on behalf of their corporation. Applied to higher education, this would prevent individual leaders, like deans and university leadership, from criminal lawsuits if their reasonable actions were on behalf of Suffolk University.

Allowing colleges to re-open with immunity would give them a free pass to ignore student and employee health. [1] We would be stripped of our ability to hold our schools accountable. Corporate immunity would give colleges fewer incentives to incorporate even the most basic safety precautions, especially for Black and brown students and campus workers who are already at a disproportionate risk. The Boston Globe reports that “Hispanic residents make up 12 percent of the population, but their rate of positive cases is nearly 30 percent. Similarly, Black residents represent about 7 percent of the population, but their rate of positive COVID-19 cases is double that, at 14.4 percent. Overall, the state data show, the rate of positive cases among Black and brown residents is more than three times that of white residents.” [2] In addition, flouting basic safety precautions and CDC guidelines will only result in more COVID-19 cases and an inevitable return to online learning.

Blanket corporate immunity could shield universities and other employers if they:

● Unreasonably fail to provide students and campus workers with PPE.
● Fail to take reasonable steps to ensure that students can socially distance in classrooms and dorms.
● Are aware that a student has tested positive for COVID-19, and the school unreasonably fails to trace and test other campus community members that the student has come into contact with.
● Fail to take reasonable steps to prevent students who are sick from coming to class.
● Unreasonably ignore clear guidance from state or federal public health officials.

Supporters of immunity see it as a necessary step to shield schools and businesses as they begin to re-open. However, state tort law only requires reasonable measures be taken to keep students and workers safe. To sue, a victim would also have to show the school caused the exposure. In other words, it is already difficult to sue schools for putting students and workers at risk. Immunizing universities from liability will simply pass on risk to students, university employees, and the greater Boston community.

We call on Suffolk University to stop lobbying Congress for corporate immunity and not require students to waive liability to come back to school in the future.

[1] https://www.peoplesparity.org/opposecorporateimmunityforschools/

[2] https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/06/19/nation/new-data-states-coronavirus-cases-deaths-show-stark-racial-divide/?event=event12