admin building mug (copy) generic copy

The University of Georgia Administration Building on North Campus. (Photo/Jason Born)

The University of Georgia has made itself a fool.

Attending in-person class a couple times a week is a joke. The thought of Sanford Stadium with a quarter of the typical 92,746 fans is a joke. To-go food from Bolton Dining Commons is a joke.

The university reopened on Aug. 20. Throughout August, an influx of around 30,000 undergraduates — there were 29,848 enrolled in fall 2019 — arrived in Athens, where the rate of new coronavirus cases had declined in the last full week of July. 

UGA needs to stop pretending to uphold a “college experience” that is simply unattainable during a pandemic. As much as anyone, we want to go downtown on a Friday night, eat at Taco Stand with friends and head to campus every day. But doing so would disregard the lives of our friends, family and the people of Athens.

We know the coronavirus is deadly. One university employee died from COVID-19 before campus fully reopened. Now, cases are surging in Athens as students hit the bars and throw parties. The university community’s single recorded death to date is one death too many. How can we expect the current situation to be better?

With the return of students, Athens’ nightlife population resurged. UGA Greek life and campus ministries have been scrutinized for lack of social distancing at events. The Delta Tau Delta fraternity house was placed under quarantine after members tested positive for COVID-19. 

COVID-19 cases in Athens-Clarke County increased to their highest one-week total during the first full week of classes at UGA — Aug. 24-30. UGA reported 821 new cases within that same time frame. 

“The rise in positive tests last week is concerning,” UGA President Jere Morehead said in a statement on Sept. 2. “It is critically important that all of our students continue to make every effort to prioritize their health and safety by taking the proper steps to avoid exposure to this virus. … All of us must take our responsibilities very seriously as we seek to reduce the spread of COVID-19.” 

Yes, a level of blame should rest on the students who refuse to social distance or wear masks, blatantly disregarding health and safety guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But Morehead and others in the UGA administration have continuously placed responsibility on students without taking their own responsibility. 

The blame should not rest entirely on students. The University System of Georgia decided to have in-person classes this fall despite the blatant risk it poses to the residents of Athens-Clarke County. Even bound by the guidelines placed on them by the USG Board of Regents, the administrators at UGA did not create a strong enough plan to keep students and Athens residents safe. 

UGA instructed students to complete coronavirus training before the first day of class, but that training wasn’t required before students arrived on campus. UGA implemented DawgCheck, a daily COVID-19 surveillance application — but that is not mandatory for students. UGA reminded everyone to be “Dawg Strong,” yet its lack of concrete, progressive action to fight the coronavirus has put students, faculty, staff and Athens residents at risk.

We understand the decision to reopen UGA wasn’t easy. The university relies on tuition and fee income. Athens’ economy relies on having students in town. Businesses cannot shut down for months on end without suffering. Freshmen deserve the best first-year experience they can have in a pandemic. Georgia football seemingly makes the world go around — and certainly drives a huge portion of the city’s economy. 

At the same time, Athens’ two hospitals serve Athens-Clarke along with 16 surrounding counties. UGA staff members, such as dining hall workers, custodians and housing staff are placed in dangerous positions each day. Older professors as well as immunocompromised students, faculty and staff are at risk on campus.  

UGA has threatened these people’s lives by reopening. The university fails to be transparent and understanding.

If in-person classes are to take place, the CDC recommends students, faculty and staff who have been sick with COVID-19 symptoms, tested positive or have been potentially exposed should stay home. Despite this, UGA faculty were instructed on Sept. 2 to not alter the location or format of classes if a student tests positive.

The CDC’s coronavirus testing considerations for institutions of higher education stated that “screening, testing and contact tracing are actions that can be taken to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19.” 

UGA’s testing program, which includes up to approximately 500 tests daily, is not robust enough to take on the coronavirus. To compare, the Georgia Institute of Technology, a fellow USG institution, had tested more than 24,000 samples in its surveillance testing program as of Sept. 3. 

UGA’s process for releasing its testing data is even more concerning. UGA’s coronavirus testing data web page is far from user-friendly. The numbers are not cumulative, the charts are confusing and it is updated just once a week. 

Georgia Tech lists both cumulative and daily totals in an easy-to-read format. Georgia Tech also has a supplementary page which includes “campus impact” statements with details for contact tracing, including when the person who tested positive was last on campus, where they lived or worked and where they will go to isolate. 

UGA’s lack of transparency is embarrassing. Before Sept. 2, the university’s isolation plan for COVID-19-positive students was unknown to the public. The university has not answered how many isolation and quarantine spaces are at capacity as of press time. 

The Red & Black has struggled to receive answers to questions and confirmation on tips we’ve received from the community. We understand many questions are difficult to answer — but why wasn’t the plan more robust before students returned to campus this fall? 

With a lack of accountability and no transparency from UGA, we cannot properly inform the public. We still do not know what USG’s threshold is for a shift to remote learning, like the one announced at UNC-Chapel Hill on Aug. 17. 

Cases surged to a record level in Athens this week and topped 800 at UGA. How many are too many? 

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(13) comments

wjabbe

Doctors in Germany and here have serious questions about this virus:

https://www.collective-evolution.com/2020/08/17/we-have-a-lot-of-evidence-that-its-a-fake-story-all-over-the-world-german-doctors-on-covid-19/

“We Have A Lot of Evidence That It’s A Fake Story All Over The World” – German Doctors on COVID-19

By

Arjun Walia

August 17, 2020

Brief quotes:

• “The Facts:

More than 500 German doctors & scientists have signed on as representatives of an organization called the "Corona Extra-Parliamentary Inquiry Committee" to investigate what's happening on our planet with regards to COVID-19.

• Reflect On:

Why are so many professionals and experts in the field being censored, ridiculed and shut down by organizations like the WHO? Should we not have the right to examine information openly, freely, and transparently?”

“John P. A. Ioannidis, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Stanford University has said that the infection fatality rate “is close to 0 percent” for people under the age of 45 years old. You can read more about that here. He and several other academics from the Stanford School of Medicine suggest that COVID-19 has a similar infection fatality rate as seasonal influenza, and published their reasoning in a study last month. You can find that study and read more about that story here.

Michael Levitt, a Biophysicist and a professor of structural biology at Stanford University criticized the WHO as well as Facebook for censoring different information and informed perspectives regarding the Coronavirus and has claimed that, with regards to lockdown measures, that “the level of stupidity going on here is amazing.” You can read more about this here.

Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi, a specialist in microbiology and one of the most cited research scientists in German history is also part of Corona Extra-Parliamentary Inquiry Committee mentioned above and has also expressed the same thing, multiple times early on in the pandemic all the way up to today.”

wjabbe

Thank you Augusta Stone for an excellent, concise and moving article on the dismal failure of the failed UGA President, Lawyer Morehead and former "honors classes" teacher, the easiest classes to teach at UGA. Everyone should ask themselves this question: "What is the most important issue in all of our lives during the past decade? Answer: The criminal destruction of the Towers in NY on 9/11/01 and the many lies about that event to the gullible and ignorant and fooled public. This is where the to most hated subjects on campus, physics and logic, suddenly rise to the top where they always have been anyway! What better way to join the goals of individual study by students and enlightenment to the lies about this event to the public, than to make this understanding the goal this year: All members of the UGA community are to spend the year on individual study to reach the goals of TRUTH about what happened and why on 9/11/01 and dispel all the propaganda lies about this massive terrorist event to all members of UGA and the population in general. A number of distinguished scholars have studied this problem, but you won't read about them in the local propaganda trash sheets called newspapers summarized by this great quotation by the genius Founder of America Thomas Jefferson: "Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper." Here is a place to begin your study of the truth of the events of 9/11/01 by a top scholar, former U.S. Marine Corps officer, graduate of Princeton University and retired chaired professor from the University of Minnesota, Professor Dr. James Fetzer, Ph.D. who was from Pasadena,. California.

Winfield J. Abbe, Ph.D., Physics

xxxxc

Not everyone who is on campus teaching in person classes are there because they want to be. We love teaching in person but it is very risky. Teaching in person is mandatory for faculty who do not have specific health conditions. For students, attendance in person is optional. For faculty, it is not. And now we are not even allowed to quarantine the class after there is a positive case among our students. The contact tracing and reporting is not working. The technology in the classrooms, however, was upgraded and that´s a nice change.

gafan87

Shared my sentiments on a guest opinion column, and will summarize here. It's a personal choice to be on campus @ UGA, and apparently many students (like almost everyone) made the decision to be on campus when Fall 2020 started. I believe that all of these students and their families have had access to every piece of data on the planet, and yet in their estimation of individual risk management, they made their own personal choice to be on campus @ UGA in Athens this fall.

UGA leadership continues to make decisions as to what it deems best for the UGA community. Candidly, the mention of Chapel Hill or North Avenue or any other academic response may be interesting, but it has zero relevance as to what UGA leadership is doing for the UGA community. If those places are that much better in this instance and other situations, and for those who feel so strongly about the inadequacy of UGA efforts - perhaps you and others should explore matriculation at those places. Lots of people - prospective students, faculty and staff - will gladly be on campus @ UGA to be part of our great community.

I wish you and the entire UGA community the very best as you navigate these unprecedented times. And if it's that unbearable - maybe explore alternatives. It's your personal choice.

Hedor304

This analysis misses the mark on many levels. your central thesis is the very tired 'love it or leave it' argument, which leaves no room for improving this or any other situation. Constructive criticism is provided by those who care about the target community and are trying to make the situation better. I am 100% for in-person, on campus instruction at UGA, but we needed another plan to make that happen, and we needed an admin that was transparent in making information available so that evidence-based decisions could be made in response to changing conditions. Other schools have done this, which is why it is totally relevant for the editorial to mention this -and it is candidly bizarre to suggest otherwise -why wouldn't they compare UGA to other similar institutions? -that seems basic.

Another problem with your 'love it leave it' is that is ignores many basic facts that makes this a poor option for many students. For one, only the economically privileged have the 'personal choice' to pay out-of-state tuition. Second, decisions on what college to attend were generally made before UGA's 'clearly inadequate' plans were announced -and probably at a time when few thought covid would be raging in the fall due to the profound failure of leadership at the national level as well as with many states -including GA

.

I could go on and on, but the last thing I will mention is that while some fortunate students may have a 'personal choice' to attend UGA most staff do not. Neither do the folks in the Athens community. Their health should also be considered.

gafan87

Please, do go on and on. When I last checked, there are no binding, non-negotiable statutes that require anyone (students, faculty, staff) to be on any campus or community for any reason. It is very much a personal choice for everyone. No one has demanded that any student attend a school in-state or out-of-state or on the moon. In fact, that would be illegal under our laws. But it is very predictable that one is not allowed to make a rational rebuttal to your very tired scorched earth position on this discussion.

As before, you and others have clearly "exposed" your perspective of a problematic situation. Be part of the solution which is not a shallow reference to other places. That's easy. Real solutions take time and energy and hard work and commitment. That's what UGA leadership has demonstrated.

Hedor304

okay, I will go on a bit then. Before that, I will note that you only superficially addressed my earlier points about 'personal choice' repeating the simplistic notion that folks can simply choose even though this isn't a viable choice for most -most staff that want to keep their jobs indeed have to be on campus, and while they have the choice to quit, then they would lose their health benefits in a pandemic, which starts to look a lot less appealing. And from what I've heard faculty have to teach in-person even if a student tests positive in their course.

The other basic point is that you seem only to recognize the importance of positive freedoms. But law and society also regularly recognizes 'freedom from' dangers. This is why we don't have the 'personal choice' to drink and drive as it endangers others and so society creates structures to minimize this behavior. If one's personal choice endangers another 's health then we have to consider both.

And no one is saying you can't make a rebuttal -you in fact did so and it was posted. But lives are at stake and I was simply responding because I don't see how it helps to oversimplify a complex situation to 'personal choice' when many don't actually have this freedom (beyond the narrow technical sense you refer to). As a person that very much wants the economy and UGA back to something near normal, I am fully behind real solutions and readily recognize those take energy and hard work. However, I also want those solution to be based on evidence so that they are more likely to work. I also note that the transparency that the editorial argues for would be required for students and other to make reasonable 'personal choices'. Hopefully, you will at least acknowledge that.

sale1

Hedor304's argument is well reasoned. I'm a faculty member, and while I do technically have a personal choice regarding whether I stay at UGA, none of the options that I can choose from are very good. If I left, I would be without an income and medical insurance, and it would take me months to find another full-time academic job (if I ever find one again). Staying at UGA is the best option for me. 

That doesn't mean I'm happy with the way UGA has reopened. I firmly believe that we have been forced to take on risk unnecessarily, and many people will become ill as a result, and I also believe that the university administration has refused to provide information of importance to students, staff, and faculty.  It appears that even college deans are in the dark about some policies and how decisions are being made (this is based on emails I've seen and meetings that I've been a part of or have sat in on). It's all very troubling.

 

The criticism of the administration, expressed in this editorial and elsewhere, is in many cases warranted, and it serves an important purpose. It applies pressure to the University administration to fix mistakes that it has already made and to be more vigilant about avoiding future mistakes. Making mistakes here will likely cost lives or adversely affect people for years to come. 

Donald711

Relax, Augusta, the sky isn’t falling

everyone will eventually get it - Cases will continue occurring - the CDC data is clear that kids under 30 are not high risk

We must live our lives and hysterical editorial boards do not help the situation - stay in your basement if you want to

Carry on, Athens

Hedor304

sky is not falling? the US has already lost 192,000 people in about 7 months. For perspective that is 4X the number of combat fatalities in the Vietnam war (or more than all US combat deaths since the Korean war) or sixty-four 9/11s. All mostly preventable with proper management -see the numerous examples throughout the planet. And it is not just students one should care about, but staff and faculty and their families and the surrounding community that is in now in danger. I have lost family and friends already and do not want to lose more. Also emerging evidence of long-term health risks associated with 'mild' cases. But so many just want to stick their heads in the sand because it hasn't affected them yet. To me this shows an astounding lack of empathy.

UGAMom2Daughters

What are active cases? What types if symptoms? Any hospitalizations? Most of my girls classes are online. So I’m guessing professors decide in person or online. It will be fine.

Donald711

Exactly

Hedor304

Spot on. The Covid19 plan was 'clearly inadequate', it has now clearly failed, and UGA needs to act aggressively before things get much worse. The lack of transparency and the deflecting of responsibility is embarrassing. Thank you to the Red and Black for the continued quality coverage of Covid19 related matters and for holding the UGA upper administration to account.

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