University system rushing to open doors without considering students’ safety

Illustration by Monique | The Signal

On June 26, Georgia State released an enthusiastic announcement for how it will welcome back its students for the fall semester. Despite the school’s previous hesitation to call off in-person classes at the beginning of the outbreak, it was shocking to see such a bold statement put out while cases are on the rise. 

The plan outlines three different types of courses: blended, online and face-to-face. Blended courses are similar to hybrid selections where students only attend classes in person once a week, then participate in online learning for the rest of the week. Face-to-face classes are traditional courses, said to be the best option for courses that require hands-on content. 

This being said, students did not see any change in their schedules until much later into July. Some classes disappeared completely while many will not be on campus at all. Scholarships still refuse to populate in PAWS and emails to advisors have been deemed worthless on discussion forums. Housing prices have risen without any email indicating what will happen next semester for those who opt to remain on campus. 

Georgia State was too anxious to announce school would be in session before considering not only the consequences, but how it would be possible. 

Nowhere on Georgia State’s website does it give any additional information for students who may not feel comfortable with in-person classes. Select classes are able to be switched to the online format; however, many courses, like graduate courses, are offered as blended only. As someone who personally still has two classes in person, I have no option to change these courses to an online alternative. 

Social distancing will be observed where it is possible, and students will be required to wear masks in all Georgia State facilities. But, even with a class size reduction of 50%, the buildings on campus were not built to house students six feet apart.

For the immunocompromised, be prepared. 

We still pay tuition. We still have required attendance. We are still expected to arrive on campus in an urban environment in downtown Atlanta fearlessly because Georgia State was brave enough to give students and faculty masks to wear in buildings. 

When did it become less about the students and more about securing the tuition? 

The criticism Georgia faces from other states is plentiful and embarrassing. With cases bringing our hospitals to capacity, our taxpayer money is used to sue Atlanta’s mayor for trying to mandate masks and move back toward phase one.

Brian Kemp made his point loud and clear: He cares more about the economy than he does about the lives and safety of our citizens. As a public university, the best we can do is cower beneath his shadow. 

We could have at least had a plan of action, anything better organized than what was thrown at us in June. We are still struggling to understand what exactly is happening come fall semester as cases climb exponentially. We know we will be expected to return to our classrooms.

We pay to attend this university yet have had little to no involvement in how the students would prefer their health be handled. 

To return to campus and face an outbreak sounds easier than to figure out a way to host online courses only. But what happens then? Will every student in my courses need to quarantine for two weeks? My professors? Other students from classes the professor has taught? Georgia State prepares only for the best, and this is where the communication and planning ends. 

The University System of Georgia doesn’t care about the letters, emails or the petitions we sign. It doesn’t care about the number of cases or the number of students who would rather pay tuition for one semester online than to pay with their life for face-to-face instruction. 

Spelman, Morehouse and Clark Atlanta have announced online learning for the fall semester while USG schools trip over themselves to justify the risk of keeping campus open.

To the students who feel afraid, unheard and forgotten, you deserve an apology. Your life is worth more than opening the doors of a public university.