Kennesaw State faculty and student groups protested on the Campus Green every weekday last week, demanding that the University System of Georgia implement COVID-19 safety measures.
The protests were organized at 16 USG schools by the United Campus Workers of Georgia, a faculty, student and staff union along with the American Association of University Professors, a faculty advocacy group.
KSU’s chapters of the Young Democrats and the Young Democratic Socialists of America also helped organize the protests.
“We’re targeting the USG and the [Board of Regents] downtown because they are running things, they are dictating the policy here,” Associate Professor of Conflict Management and UCWGA KSU member Dr. Heather Pincock said at the Monday rally.
KSU interim President Dr. Kathy Schwaig is unable to implement any mask or vaccine mandates, as KSU is under the control of the USG.
At the protest, Associate Professor of Social Studies Education Dr. Jillian Ford talked about what current COVID numbers look like in Georgia and Cobb County.
“On Sunday, Georgia had 68 ICU beds left available for a population of 10.6 million,” Ford said. “This is the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that all 14 hospital regions in our state are using more than 90 percent of their beds at the same time.”
As of Thursday, Sept. 16, there have been 741 total COVID cases per 100,000 people in Cobb County in the past two weeks, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.
There have also been 143.1 total confirmed deaths per 100,000 people in the county that both of KSU’s campuses are in.
“This is a crisis in our country, our state and our county,” Ford said. “Many of these hospitalizations and deaths could have been prevented and so far our leaders here in Georgia, at the University System of Georgia have failed us.”
Professor of Human Services and Vice President of AAUP at KSU Dr. Hans Skott-Myhre said that safety protocols at KSU are too lax and professors face discipline or firing if they try to implement any.
A notable case of a professor being fired for implementing a mask mandate in their class was at Georgia State University last month.
“They’re not limiting classrooms or dorm capacity to allow for social distancing indoors,” Skott-Myhre said. “They’re encouraging, but not requiring masking in indoor spaces. As a result, many classrooms at KSU have large numbers of unmasked people gathering indoors.”
The professor also said that COVID testing exists on campus but it is not accessible to people without health insurance.
“They’re not doing randomized rapid testing to accurately monitor case numbers, they’re not making accommodations to allow faculty, staff or students who live with immunocompromised loved ones or children under 12 who cannot be vaccinated to teach, work or learn online,” Skott-Myhre said. “They’re not letting professors livestream their classes so that students who need or want to isolate can still get class material. They’re not letting professors who have even been exposed to or become ill with COVID-19 move their classes online — even for one day — without permission.”
The Sentinel reached out to KSU officials to see if Schwaig’s administration had any comments on the protests and demands.
Assistant Vice President of Communications Tammy Demel directed the paper to KSU’s COVID website.
On the site, students, faculty and staff are able to self-report COVID cases and schedule on-campus tests.
Under the FAQ section of the website is where KSU reports the total number of COVID cases for the past week.
UCWGA KSU has criticized the university in the past for not being more transparent and extensive in detailing the amount of COVID cases on campus and the surrounding community.
For the week of Sept. 4 through Sept. 10, KSU reports 136 overall confirmed cases. Eight of those numbers are staff and 128 were students.
YDSA member Carson DeMoss said that he attends classes in person and while he is not worried about his own safety, he is concerned about professors who must spend a lot of time on campus.
“I’m nervous for faculty and people who have to see them because I’m only in the room for what — 50 minutes, masked up,” DeMoss said. “But the faculty have to be in there all day, every day with a bunch of different people.”