Alarm, sanitize, drive to campus, sanitize, turn on computer, office, sanitize, drive home, sanitize. Then I’m finally done with the most anxiety inducing experience of my life. Until I have to do it again, later that week. And will continue to do so until Georgia Southern University goes to fully online classes.
My story isn’t unique, exclusive, or uncommon to the other student workers who are facilitating the frontline of a global pandemic or to the other students who are learning in hazardous face-to-face environments. My hope is that after reading this you see the impact of what happens when an institution does everything it can to protect itself above the lives, health, and safety of the people it serves.
As a graduate student, I have the incredible opportunity to educate other students in my field and enjoyed doing it during the 2019-2020 school year. I welcomed students to office hours, engaged with them directly in class, challenged them, and learned a lot from them myself. That is an experience Georgia Southern University provided for me, and I loved my job as a teaching assistant. Even when we went fully online in March 2020, I still loved my job. Hosting online office hours, virtual lectures, and yes, even the countless emails calming very confused and very scared students. Spring 2020 demonstrated a Georgia Southern University that made the best of the worst times. It was an incredibly difficult situation for everyone and one many of us believed would continue for Fall 2020 classes.
Sadly, it did not. It was a summer spent delaying campus reopening plans, full of unanswered questions, and administrative unwillingness to address basic fears which led us to the point we are currently at. Over 508 confirmed cases over two weeks, ranking Statesboro 5th nationally in terms of per capita case increases over the period, red-zoned health restrictions, and yet Eagles are still expected to “do right.”
It is past time for the institution to do right. It is past time for an institution built to support students to actually support its students. Every day the campus remains open, Georgia Southern University administrators endanger the lives of students, faculty, and staff. It is not fear-mongering I am trying to do. I’m simply asking them to do right, to do what they are asking us to do.
As a student facilitator, I have the incredible responsibility of the institution’s agenda ahead of my own health and those I live with. It would be equally irresponsible to assume that I can safely opt out of this job, which does not adequately address hazardous working conditions. For many student facilitators, this is a job they were told to do by supervisors on the precondition of tuition waivers or a grandstanding gesture to support the department as it protects their faculty with health accommodations. For many student facilitators, this is a job they’ve justified doing because of the wage persuasion, which is predatory in nature. But alas, this is what happens when an institution protects itself, and not those it serves.
As a student at Georgia Southern University, I have the incredible responsibility to learn from faculty in my field to prepare me for my future. Though I can’t very well do so in a healthy state of mind when I am told by supervisors to get tested for a currently incurable virus weekly because of continued student exposure. Yet, I do. I do right by getting tested. I know I am doing right, and I convince myself that I am done, until the alarm buzzes. Then I do right all over again. When will Georgia Southern University do right? When will the University System of Georgia Board of Regents do right?