Three Simple Demands of the Board of Regents

UCWGA’s three-fold Plan to Survive Covid-19 during Spring 2021 at USG Campuses


Workers are facing the Spring 2021 Semester with infection levels, hospitalizations, and deaths in Georgia 10 times higher than they were in late August. The public health crisis USG campuses faced in Fall Semester only looks worse for the Spring. 

While administration pushed unnecessary in-person work, students and workers attempted to minimize their presence on campus as much as possible. UGA’s own student survey revealed that half of students opted out even when in person classes were available. Even with these precautions, USG campuses saw more than 12,000 infections statewide [Link], fueling the surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths we are seeing in Georgia now. The United Campus Workers of Georgia’s stance is that the USG owes back hazard pay for Fall and Summer 2020 terms for all workers who were compelled to work in these perilous conditions. 

Infectious disease experts warn that the early months of 2021 will likely be the most deadly phase of the pandemic, as we wait for widespread availability of vaccines later in the year. The BOR’s current policy to force face-to-face instruction in Spring 2021 is dangerous for workers and Georgians everywhere. We demand that USG allocate the resources necessary to conduct a Spring Semester that will be safe for all.

Our Plan

1. Classes will meet face-to-face (F2F) only when the following bare minimum safe practices are in place:

a. mandatory testing for all workers and students at the start of the semester and regularly thereafter

b.  the first two weeks of classes fully online while we wait for initial test results

c. daily public reporting on each campus of numbers of

    tests administered,

    positive infections,     

    students and workers quarantined, isolated or who have left campus

d. regular reports of the state of health of each campus’s surrounding communities, including hospitalizations, ICU capacity, and deaths

e. clear and public statistical thresholds, specific to each campus, for when to pivot to online  classes, endorsed by a consensus of public health experts and compatible with CDC guidelines

2. All staff and instructor jobs must be protected, and every employee must have the right to choose whether or not they work on campus. No worker will be penalized in any way for using their best judgment to protect themselves and their families. Workers must not bear the consequences of the errors and poor judgment of the USG.

3. If these conditions cannot be met, then the USG must provide hazard pay to any worker they compel to work in unsafe conditions. 

Feasibility

1. As it did with the mask mandate in July, the USG lags behind our peer and aspirational institutions who have already adopted mandatory testing: U. Illinois, U.Alabama, Clemson U., and U.Florida, U.North Carolina, U.South Carolina, SUNY system, U.West Virginia, U. Michigan, U.Arizona, Washington State U, Purdue U, U.Pennsylvania, U. Wisconsin, Princeton U. [1] and U California-Davis [2].

2. Funds designated for education exist in Georgia to implement this plan. The lottery reserve in Feb 2020-- a source of funds available for any lawful purpose-- was $700 million, up from ~$600 million in Feb 2019 [3], and well above the $500 million surplus the lottery maintains at all times. The question is whether the State of Georgia will muster the vision, creativity and just plain guts to invest to save its estimable system of higher education and, with it, the hope of prosperity in our State in the years to come.

References

(1) Nietzel, MT “Colleges Ramp Up Coronavirus Testing For Spring Semester As Some Plan More On-Campus Activities” Forbes, 30 November 2020

(https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeltnietzel/2020/11/30/colleges-ramp-up...

(2) https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/covid-19-testing-program-expands/

(3) https://gbpi.org/unused-lottery-funds-available-to-support-more-affordab...






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