University of Georgia alumnus Matt Osajima has a younger sister who is planning to start her sophomore year in Athens this fall. The thought of his sister getting sick with COVID-19 was the “biggest inspiration” for the creation of protectuga.org, he said.
After thinking of his sister and hearing concerns about UGA’s reopening conditions from friends, Osajima worked to create a website which connects members of the UGA community with the school’s administrators. By filling out the form on the website, anxious students, parents and other users can send an automated or personalized email about their COVID-19 concerns to members of the university administration.
So far, Osajima said 275 people have sent emails using the website since its creation on Aug. 4, adding to the multitude of voices who are concerned about campus reopening and Athens’ increasing COVID-19 cases. Last week, Athens recorded a record of over 300 COVID-19 cases in one week. UGA’s semester begins on Aug. 20.
The automated message asks that the university allows professors to completely move their classes online. It also asks that UGA waive its housing contract cancellation fees, which would allow students to cancel their housing contracts without cost if students no longer feel safe living on campus.
“The more barriers to an action there are, the less likely somebody will do it.”
– Matt Osajima, UGA alum and creator of protectuga.org
“The thermometers and self-monitoring guidelines you provided are signals that you expect students, faculty and staff to inevitably get sick,” the automated email reads. “Beyond this, decisions are being made behind closed doors, and we feel like there are no options. We do not feel heard.”
Osajima wanted to streamline the lines of communication between those who are concerned about COVID-19 and the UGA administration. This way, he said, people would be more likely to express their thoughts.
“The more barriers to an action there are, the less likely somebody will do it,” Osajima said. “It can be kind of intimidating to send an email to the president of UGA of the vice president of student affairs.”
Bryce Acree, the website's developer and a rising sophomore at Georgia Tech, created the website as a favor to Osajima — the two are high school friends and have kept in contact over the years. After talking about Osajima’s vision for the project, the development took three days.
“He just really wanted to give students a voice and let them contact the right people for getting their voice heard,” Acree said.
Osajima is promoting the website through his Instagram account and by emailing alumni and friends.
View this post on Instagram
If you believe that something isn’t right, make your voice heard. I’m not usually one to make too much noise, but with my little sister and many friends returning to Athens soon, there’s huge concern about UGA’s response to COVID-19. FOR STUDENTS AND ALUMNI: At protectUGA.com, you will find a platform that will automatically send a prewritten email to UGA administration demanding greater safety measures, more transparency, and the removal of the housing contract cancellation fee. (Link in bio) I’ve spoken to students over the past week, and there is an overwhelming frustration with the lack of transparency and protection from the administration. Beyond this, we are risking the lives of faculty and staff who dedicate their careers to student success. As alumni, it’s also our responsibility to make our university safer for everyone. Please share this where you can, and feel free to DM me any questions :)
Although he won’t be returning to Athens this month, Osajima is concerned for his friends who will be. He said he recognizes that while the UGA administration has been transparent about the protocol for in-person classes, many students don’t feel like the school is taking enough steps to protect them.
“Other leading public colleges and universities have moved online,” Osajima said. “We should be able to not let politics let money get in the way of focusing on what matters, which are students, a decent education and the lives of everyone involved.”