University of Michigan: Stop Lobbying Congress for Corporate Immunity

Mark Schlissel, President of the University of Michigan

We are members of the University of Michigan campus community. The University does not speak for us when it lobbies to give blanket immunity to corporations.

Petition by
Michigan Parity Project
Ann Arbor, Michigan

To: Mark Schlissel, President of the University of Michigan
From: [Your Name]

We demand the University of Michigan stop lobbying Congress for corporate immunity legislation. We demand the University allow students and workers to keep their rights when they return to campus.

The University is a member of the American Council on Education (ACE) and the American Association of Universities (AAU), industry groups that lobbied Congress to give blanket immunity to big employers, including universities, from COVID-19-related lawsuits.[1] Congressional Republicans unveiled the legislation this week. If passed, it would disincentivize colleges from taking reasonable precautions against the spread of COVID-19.

ACE and AAU lobbied for corporate immunity in the University’s name, and possibly with the University’s support. This must end.

The University has an obligation to protect the health of students and workers as campus reopens, including by taking basic safety precautions like providing PPE, implementing social distancing, and creating protocols for handling new waves of the virus on campus. We expect the University to follow these and other CDC guidelines out of responsibility to the community. However, if the University fails to properly address the risks of COVID-19, it must be held accountable. Any attempt to preempt liability with corporate immunity destroys our trust in the University's safety measures.

Corporate immunity risks lives for profit. It further endangers the most endangered of us: the immunocompromised, the un- or underinsured, and many others.

Black, Indigenous and other Michiganders of color are dying from COVID-19 at disproportionate rates. That is especially true of Black Michiganders, who make up 14% of the state’s population, but 31% of its COVID-19 cases and 40% of its COVID-19 deaths.[2] Employers and colleges should be working to correct those disparities. Corporate immunity would do less than nothing for them.

Corporate immunity would put international students in an especially dangerous position. ICE recently threatened to force international students to leave the country if they cannot attend in-person classes. Corporate immunity would disincentivize safety in classrooms even if ICE coerces international students into those classrooms. The University has made statements opposing ICE’s hostility to international students. But the University compounds that hostility by lobbying for corporate immunity.

We want to return to campus under safe conditions, with the proper precautions in place. Corporate immunity would incentivize schools and corporations to ignore that interest.

We call on the University to:

- Stop lobbying Congress for corporate immunity
- Announce its opposition to corporate immunity, and
- Pledge to not require students & workers to sign liability waivers to come back to campus.



Banner image: modified from original by Wikimedia Commons user Flavinsta