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Coronavirus US: UGA students protest against re-opening plans

University of Georgia staff and students staged a ‘die-in’ demonstration last week in protest of the school’s re-opening plans.

Fifty students, plus faculty members, played dead six feet apart from one another outside the office of the university’s president, Jere W. Morehead, to send a message that they were dissatisfied with the rules and structure set up for the beginning of the university’s fall semester on August 20. 

Holding up signs and tombstones made out of cardboard, the protesters demanded mask requirements, remote learning, and free COVID-19 pandemic — while warning that people will die if the school re-opens as planned.  

Symbolism: University of Georgia staff and students staged a 'die-in' demonstration last week in protest of the school's re-opening plans

Symbolism: University of Georgia staff and students staged a ‘die-in’ demonstration last week in protest of the school’s re-opening plans

Fifty students, plus faculty members, played dead six feet apart from one another outside the office of the university's president

Fifty students, plus faculty members, played dead six feet apart from one another outside the office of the university’s president

Demonstration: Holding up signs and tombstones made out of cardboard, the protesters demanded mask requirements, remote learning, and free COVID-19 pandemic

Demonstration: Holding up signs and tombstones made out of cardboard, the protesters demanded mask requirements, remote learning, and free COVID-19 pandemic

Mix: The university's re-opening next week will involve some in-person classes, some online-only classes, and some classes with a mix of in-person and online sessions

Mix: The university’s re-opening next week will involve some in-person classes, some online-only classes, and some classes with a mix of in-person and online sessions

The university’s re-opening next week will involve a mix of learning types, with some in-person classes, some online-only classes, and some classes with a mix of in-person and online sessions.

Masks are only required indoors.

But the United Campus Workers of Georgia, a higher education union, says that’s not good enough, and has started a petition to demand more safety measures.

The petition, which has garnered more than 12,000 signatures, demands that masks be provided and required for all of the campus community, and that no student or faculty member will be required to attend face-to-face instruction.

‘There will be no penalty, either subtle or overt, for requesting online-only engagement in the Fall,’ the petition reads.

It also demands that free and comprehensive testing be made available.

Taking a stand: The United Campus Workers of Georgia, a higher education union, says that's not good enough, and has started a petition to demand more safety measures

Taking a stand: The United Campus Workers of Georgia, a higher education union, says that’s not good enough, and has started a petition to demand more safety measures

Signed: The petition has more than 12,000 signatures and demands that masks required, and that no student or faculty member will be required to attend face-to-face instruction

Signed: The petition has more than 12,000 signatures and demands that masks required, and that no student or faculty member will be required to attend face-to-face instruction

Statement: Playing dead on the lawn, the protesters held up signs with messages like 'RIP Campus Safety,' and 'We are not dispensable'

Statement: Playing dead on the lawn, the protesters held up signs with messages like ‘RIP Campus Safety,’ and ‘We are not dispensable’

To further make their point, the United Campus Workers of Georgia also organized Thursday’s protest.

Playing dead on the lawn, the protesters held up signs with messages like ‘RIP Campus Safety,’ and ‘We are not dispensable,’ and ‘How many dawgs will die,’ references the school’s mascot, the Bulldogs.’

Others seen in photos read ‘I can’t teach when I’m dead,’ ‘How many will UGA let die?’ ‘When I said I was dying to get back to my classroom, I didn’t mean it literally,’ and ‘How do we fit “grieving our community members” into the syllabus?’

‘Students learn more when they’re alive,’ read another. ‘Allow remote learning.’ 

‘We wanted to show that students, faculty and staff are very concerned with what we feel are inadequate plans from the university,’ Bryant Barnes, a graduate student and teaching assistant who participated in the protest, told Yahoo

'We wanted to show that students, faculty and staff are very concerned with what we feel are inadequate plans from the university,' Bryant Barnes, a graduate student (not pictured) said

‘We wanted to show that students, faculty and staff are very concerned with what we feel are inadequate plans from the university,’ Bryant Barnes, a graduate student (not pictured) said

Danger: Signs warned that students and staff may die if they are expected to resume classes on campus instead of sticking to remote learning

Danger: Signs warned that students and staff may die if they are expected to resume classes on campus instead of sticking to remote learning

One sign read: 'How do we fit "grieving our community members" into the syllabus?'

One sign read: ‘How do we fit “grieving our community members” into the syllabus?’

‘As a teacher, I am upset that we are not allowed to make our own decisions about effective ways of teaching,’ added English Professor Sujata Iyengar, who also attended. ‘No one is saying to close the school — but we need a cleaner air system and better screening and backup plans [when people get sick.]’

Protesters have other requests, too, including hazard pay for employees who cannot work remotely and paid leave for employees who must quarantine.

The school, however, has no plans to allow or remote learning for all students.

‘Under the circumstances and given our mission to educate students, it is not practical or prudent to allow individual employees to decide whether to work from home or campus,’ UGA president Morehead said, according to the Athens Herald-Banner

‘In order to plan for and deliver the high-quality educational experience our students expect and deserve, and to be fair to all employees, the University must apply consistent standards for work schedules.’

Demands:

Demands: Protesters have other requests, too, including hazard pay for employees who cannot work remotely and paid leave for employees who must quarantine

Prep: A spokesperson for the university said that preparations for the fall semester began in April

Prep: A spokesperson for the university said that preparations for the fall semester began in April

Cases: Georgia has had a total of 216,596 COVID-19 cases, with 3,169 new cases recorded on Sunday

Cases: Georgia has had a total of 216,596 COVID-19 cases, with 3,169 new cases recorded on Sunday

A spokesperson for the university said that preparations for the fall semester began in April, and the school ‘is deeply committed to the health and safety of students, faculty and staff, and continues to follow COVID-19 guidance from the Georgia Department of Public Health and the CDC.’ 

Some schools, including Princeton University, have switched to remote-only learning for the fall 2020 semester, but the majority seem to be doing some combination of remote and in-person classes.

Georgia, however, is currently seeing a coronavirus spike, and has had a total of 216,596 COVID-19 cases, with 3,169 new cases recorded on Sunday.

It has the fifth-highest recorded cases of any state, following California, New York, Florida, and Texas. 

The state also has had 4,108 confirmed deaths so far.  

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