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Students of Georgia Southern, Savannah State sound off on USG reopening policy 

WHEN THE University System of Georgia made their decision to resume classes in the fall, they did so with very little input from anyone who would be affected by that decision. They also failed to consider the opinions of the group they purport to care most about: the students.

Two universities in our area—Savannah State University and the Armstrong campus of Georgia Southern—are nestled in the USG system. The plan for both schools is a return to campus in the fall, though as of this writing there has been no decision made for when, exactly, that will happen.

Often, decisions like these are made with the students’ wellbeing in mind, though by many accounts there was no real attempt at reaching out to this population. So, we did that for them. We reached out to current students of both SSU and GSU to learn more about how, exactly, they feel about going back to school.

The results, we learned, were fairly mixed.

Morgan Barry, Georgia Southern

My university has done an adequate job of keeping us informed about what’s going to happen. Some people have begun to petition in person classes. I, however, am beyond excited to go back to school. I miss my friends and social interaction. I am completely okay with wearing a mask and making additional adjustments if it means going back.

When COVID-19 shut down schools back in March, I missed out on a lot especially from my sorority. I was a new member who did not get initiation, big little reveal, or a formal. All of these things are planned to continue in the Fall, and I would be very disappointed if they were cancelled again. More importantly, it is much harder for me to learn sufficiently in online classes. I learn material much better when I am physically in the classroom. For these reasons I really hope the plan for in-person classes is carried through.

Kaleigh Lamont, Georgia Southern

To be honest, I have no idea how to feel about Georgia Southern’s plan to return to campus. Nothing remotely close to this situation has ever happened before, so I have no precedent for all of this. I haven’t seen any of my friends and acquaintances from school since March, and I miss them all dearly and am excited to see them, but at the same time, I’m worried that we don’t have any way to return to campus in true safety. There is no way to enforce masks on campus, or to truly social distance (due to restraints regarding number of classrooms and teachers), and it seems that all of these proposed precautions have been very rushed.

I am a biology major, and I would very much like to know how they intend to have us social distance in a lab. I would love nothing more than for everyone to safely return to campus, but it just doesn’t seem feasible to me at this time.

Kristin Campbell, Georgia Southern

As an immunocompromised student, I am excited for GSU to open back up. Not too much anxiety here because I have been by campus and have seen changes that have been made. Though I am worried about students going home for breaks and coming back. MSU will be ending the semester at Thanksgiving so that students don’t leave to go home and come back.

Nora Cook, Georgia Southern

I’m scared because frankly, I don’t trust that the best decisions will be made. There is supposedly a plan for the SARC (student accommodation resource center) office to give immune compromised people attendance accommodations for in person classes. However, I’ve had the experience of being denied this accommodation in the past despite my doctor’s recommendation. So, I probably will not bother applying for this one. I don’t have the time, money, or energy to see my doctor just to be denied by a non-medical personnel.

Malachi Stewart, Savannah State

I would love for us to go back to school. Our health is the number one important thing, plus our education as well. That’s what I keep telling the students: they want to have campus life, want to have parties, want to have events. I get that. But we live in a time right now that’s unpredictable.

Do I think we should go back? I’m 50/50 on it, but if I could give you a definite answer, I would say no because you never know what’s going to happen.

Classes will be spread out so everyone can be six feet apart. People will be encouraged to wear masks. It’s not going to be mandated because that would be a state thing, but there’s going to be a big push for the students to be safe. We’ll be leaving in November after Thanksgiving.

The main thing I can tell you is to wear a mask. Be safe. Pray. We’re just waiting to see what’s happening. Everyone’s waiting on the vaccine and we’re just taking it day by day.

Zak Davis, Georgia Southern

It’s a weird pretend that the fall semester is going to be normal, when it is anything but. From my friends and family who are teachers, it’s all going to get shut down sometime after Labor Day anyway. I’m not a fan and don’t work well with online studies. Online is a nonstarter for me.

Putting people in close proximity like this, even with social distancing and masks, is a Band-Aid, and college students are not going to participate in the measures fully because they’re young, and many can’t either because they have to work.

The perfect solution would be to just can the semester and do online only, but allow caveats that this semester is not a normal semester. Teachers and professors shouldn’t be required to do both online and physical education, and the students and educators need more of a say in administrative decisions.

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