UGA students deserve better_graphic

Some University of Georgia students who have had COVID-19 believe there is a social stigma related to testing positive for the coronavirus.

On the first Monday of the semester I was given the choice between putting myself in what public health professionals called "grave danger" and lying to my professor on the first real day of class. I chose the latter.

There were many factors that led to my decision, which can accurately be summarized by COVID-19 and the obscene lack of leadership and guidance demonstrated at the federal, state and university level. My university. A place that now feels more like home than where I grew up.

On that day, and for many weeks and months now, the University of Georgia has failed me. Today it forced me to compromise my integrity, and potentially my education, for the sake of my health and well-being.

Despite my pleas to my professor weeks before the start of class for an online option, I was rebuffed in favor of a “hybrid” option. The class will be taught in-person in the Miller Learning Center on Mondays and Wednesdays, and over Zoom on Fridays.

The benefits of this model elude me. If the class can be taught on Zoom just as well one day a week, then what, I ask, is the reason for requiring in-person instruction?

Months of consuming information regarding this pandemic has taught me that by the time we start presenting symptoms, it’s too late. Forcing us to further interact with the community more than is absolutely essential could cause catastrophic ripple effects. Above all else, the extent to which we still don’t understand this virus is the most compelling argument for not forcing in-person interactions. We don’t know why it affects some worse than others and we don’t know all of the potential long-term health effects, even in asymptomatic individuals. This is not just the flu.

In my first Zoom class on Friday the 21, my professor stated that if we should start to present with symptoms for COVID-19, we should alert her and stay at home. She said she would be able to stream the class on Zoom for those unable to attend in-person.

Immediately following the class, I reached back out to the professor through email to reassert my concerns about in-person instruction in the most frequented building on campus and asked that if she was able to provide a remote option for students with symptoms, whether she would be willing to do the same for a student simply trying to cooperate with CDC guidelines.

My logical argument was met with a “no” and references to elusive policy.

“I truly understand your concern. However, the lecture on Monday or Wednesday will be streamed, if I receive any reports from [the Disability Resource Center] or Student Care and Outreach. This is because [the class] is assigned as face-to-face course this semester,” the professor said in the email.

I understand the university is in an impossible position. Without in-person instruction hundreds could lose their jobs. I cannot, with any authority, make a plea for only online instruction. However, I take issue with policies that make instructors feel unable to cater to the comfort levels of individual students and that give students little to no actionable recourse.

I have no preexisting conditions, no elevated health risks. I am a healthy 21-year-old. I have no documentation to prove I need extra accommodations, and as the academic year is officially underway, I do not have the "one to four weeks" the DRC website says the registration process can take.

To many, these factors may seem like adequate reasoning to force me to spend an hour and 40 plus minutes per week in the busiest building on campus, filled with students I have witnessed not social distancing, not wearing masks, going to bars and being reckless the past five and a half months.

I assume those who do either work in the university administration, cannot wrap their minds around this once-in-a-century event or are unable to grasp the danger posed by this virus if it has not directly impacted their lives. Nevertheless, I am convinced that my fellow students, faculty, staff and I deserve better.

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(3) comments


The university's handling of the coronavirus pandemic has forced many students to make it in a Approach us


I'm in a similar position. I have been staying at home since we ended classes early. I've been using food delivery/pickup services to prepare my meals at home. I would not leave my yard without a mask on. (I do drive without a mask as my vehicle has a cabin filter) This fall I was forced to go to half my classes in person where everyone would wear masks, but to get there I would have to walk past at least 15 students not wearing masks outside and in hallways. I did what I was supposed to do for a while, but it wasn't until a family member of mine almost died due to the coronavirus, that I decided to take the grade penalty in each of my classes for not attending in person. I'm going to lose between 5-8% in my classes to prevent people like my family member from suffering. This is a moral decision for me. I don't see why 8% of my grade is worth another person's life. I also considered just dropping all of my classes this semester. What's best for the Athens community is to treat their lives with value. I don't think any of this is worth the suffering that my family member went through.

UGA was showing a 5% positivity in the random testing. If that's correct, then 1/20 students and faculty were sick last week. It's just endangering the wellbeing of us and our community to have us there in person.


Lots of opinions on this topic, and I respect your perspective. But also suggest that UGA leadership is doing what it feels is best for the UGA community in total, which is broad and diverse. I'll offer this as I do to others who express such extreme frustration with how things are being handled ... it's a personal choice to be on campus @ UGA. It's not perfect by any stretch, nor is any academic institution or other organization for that matter. But it's your choice to be on campus and part of the UGA community. If it's that horrible and painful to continue in the near-term or beyond, then perhaps there are other places that are better aligned with your perspectives on the best way to participate in college-level instruction during this time. I wish you and ALL UGA students, faculty and staff the best of positive energy and good results now and in the future. Encourage you to be part of the solution and not to continue to propagate a perceived issue.


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