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MSU faculty and graduate students protest university's COVID-19 policies

Michigan State University faculty and graduate student employees gather outside the Hannah Administration Building. The group is protesting the university's COVID-19 outbreak policies. The photo shows people holding blue signs that say: Spartans Will Die.
Michelle Jokisch-Polo
/
WKAR
Michigan State University faculty and graduate student employees gather outside the Hannah Administration Building. The group is protesting the university's COVID-19 outbreak policies

Some Michigan State University faculty members and staff are protesting the school’s COVID-19 policies. Dozens gathered Thursday outside the Hannah Administration building on campus.

Some Michigan State University faculty members and staff are protesting the school’s COVID-19 policies.

Dozens gathered Thursday outside the Hannah Administration building on campus.

MSU made the decision last month to stop notifying instructors of COVID-19 outbreaks in the classroom unless it was considered a close contact. The university defines close contact as being within 6 feet of someone who tests positive for COVID for a total of 15 minutes or more. This is the same definition the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses to define close contact.

Erica Starr is a woman wearing a yellow dress and glasses. She is standing holding a sign that says "MSU works because we do".
Michelle Jokisch-Polo
/
WKAR
Erica Starr

Erica Starr, a full time non-tenured faculty member at MSU, is teaching four sections of an in-person class this semester. She said she's unhappy with the way the university is handling COVID-19 outbreaks on campus.

“I have a lot of students who are sick and who have chosen to not come to class because they're sick, but I have no way of really knowing unless I'm notified by the institution if I've been exposed to COVID. And to me, that's an egregious danger to me and to my family and to the rest of the community," Starr added.

Starr said they would like the university to expand their contact tracing and allow faculty and staff to more easily switch classes to a virtual model when there has been an outbreak.

Several members of the Graduate Employees Union were also present at the protest. The union is a collective bargaining unit representing those students.

Ava Hill, the group's elected information officer, said they are demanding the university change its policy and notify them when there’s been a COVID-19 outbreak in their classrooms.

"We're here to protest the reckless COVID policies that MSU is forcing on us that are endangering, you know, not just our members, but everyone in the MSU community."

Photo shows two signs that say:"Spartans Will Die".
Michelle Jokisch-Polo
/
WKAR

Hill said she wants the university to take basic responsibility for the community's well being.

“They have students who are coughing in classes behind their masks and things like that, and, or some classes where, you know, they'll just have a bunch of students absent some days. And they just don't know because the university won't tell them whether those people have COVID or not," she added.

Dan Olsen is spokesperson for the university. He said the university's is not planning to change the policies at this time.

"We will contain to follow up on all close contacts in partnership with our local health department", he added.

As of Thursday, the school's COVID-19 dashboard confirmed 522 infections since the beginning of August through its early detection program.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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