The following was submitted to Classic City News by the UGA Graduate Student Council Student Advocacy Committe:
On Thursday, October 1, the UGA Graduate Student Council (GSC) passed the “Resolution Regarding the University of Georgia (UGA) Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic” The GSC is the voting body of the Graduate Student Association (GSA), the primary political and advocacy group for graduate students at the university. Representatives from thirty-three graduate-degree granting departments at UGA passed the resolution with a near unanimous vote of 31-0-2. In passing the resolution, we intend to critique the inadequacies of UGA’s pandemic response and demand changes to ensure a more safe, equitable workplace and learning environment at UGA.
In light of universities around the country being designated COVID-19 hotspots and UGA’s plan to return to in-person courses for the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters, the resolution reflects graduate students’ concerns regarding the university’s response to the pandemic. Several points address broad safety concerns for the university and the Athens community. Namely, the resolution calls on UGA to shift to a primarily remote instruction model for the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters. In order to be equitable to all university workers, the resolution demands that UGA ensure there will be no employee lay-offs in the wake of this potential shift and work to implement hazard pay for workers who would be unable to work remotely.
Other general issues include the fact that employees, including graduate student employees, currently cannot work remotely without ADA accommodations, even if they live with a high risk partner or family member. The resolution also addresses the low availability of on-campus COVID-19 testing throughout the fall semester, the infrequent updates from UGA about numbers of current cases, the lack of a transparent number of positive cases that would trigger a campus closure, and the inability of instructors to anonymously notify their students of a positive test result in their course.
Other points address concerns that are more specific to graduate students, like how COVID-19 has disrupted the learning and research of many graduate students. In addition, the transition to hyflex and hybrid instructional models has increased the workload for graduate students who work as instructors teaching assistants. Accordingly, the resolution calls upon the Graduate School and graduate degree granting departments to extend degree time limits and graduate student funding. Furthermore, the resolution calls on the Graduate School to proactively enact measures that would protect international students from policies like those introduced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement last summer. Finally, the resolution demands greater graduate student representation in any future pandemic-related decision making processes.
The Graduate Student Council expects a response from President Morehead regarding these concerns by October 14, 2020.
The resolution can be viewed online here. Questions or concerns about the resolution can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.