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The University System of Georgia Board of Regents is the governing authority of 26 public institutions across the state, including the University of Georgia.

Graduate students from colleges across Georgia plan to deliver an open letter to members of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents on Aug. 6 asking for more inclusion in the reopening process, according to a Monday news release. The graduate students are demanding the Board of Regents respond by Aug. 12.

The letter has been signed by nearly 1,000 graduate students and allies, including undergraduates, faculty and staff. The signers are from seven different USG schools, including the University of Georgia and the Georgia Institute of Technology, according to the release.

The release notes that graduate students have been left out of the decision making process, even though graduate students comprise a significant amount of the teaching and research staff at USG institutions. There were 7,476 graduate students at UGA in fall 2019, according to the UGA Fact Book.

Graduate students will also be delivering copies of the letter to college presidents across the state, according to the release. There will also be an email campaign to send the letter and signatures to the Board of Regents.

Savannah Downing, a graduate student in the communications department at UGA, helped author the open letter along with other graduate students after noticing that most of the conversations about reopening centered on the role of faculty and students, but left graduate students in the dark.

“Not knowing has been a great source of anxiety,” Downing said. She pointed out that graduate students wear many hats, acting as teachers and researchers while also continuing to be students in their fields.

Graduate students have also not been granted extensions on their research, while tenure-track and non-tenure track faculty were granted an additional year before they are up for review, Downing said.

“We are also teaching, we’re also researching, and we also have these milestones,” Downing said. “I think it would be feasible to have another year.”

Downing said that the open letter was addressed to the USG Board of Regents after the writers realized individual universities were dependent on USG when it came to reopening decisions, and said the reopening process “really has felt like an administrative-led decision” without input from students, faculty and staff.

Downing said she is hopeful about USG’s response since graduate students from multiple universities and colleges have supported the open letter. She hopes this will be a learning moment for the administration and that they will consider the concerns of the people living, studying, teaching and cleaning on campus each day.

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