Ask President Dorman to protect the Georgia College community by allowing the choice of online learning

Dr. Steve M. Dorman, President of Georgia College and State University

As students begin arriving back on campus, rates of COVID-19 in Georgia continue to increase and ICUs in the region are at capacity. The Georgia College reopening plan is inadequate to prevent an outbreak on campus. The reopening of Georgia College puts students, employees, and the community at risk. Ask President Dorman to allow all faculty to choose to teach online and all students to choose to learn online to help prevent an outbreak in our community.

Sponsored by

To: Dr. Steve M. Dorman, President of Georgia College and State University
From: [Your Name]

The undersigned stakeholders of Georgia College request that you reconsider the current model surrounding the return to campus. While the situation may have looked more amenable to face-to-face instruction when the plan was proposed in early summer, the worsening COVID-19 outbreak in our state gives us a great deal of concern. As the USG guidelines allow for individual institutions to alter their plans based on evolving conditions, we request that you adjust the current plan to allow for more online learning. We do not want our beloved University to become a source of further spread, thus creating and compounding human misery.

Our home of Baldwin County is already being wracked by this pandemic. From July 6th through 26th, Baldwin County reported a 29% positivity rate in testing, well above the rate of 5% widely accepted as reflecting a controlled outbreak. We are currently classified in the “Substantial Spread” category, and the situation is only getting worse. What will happen when our approximately 7,000 students return to campus? Given the current plan, there are not enough resources to handle a campus outbreak. For example, if students become infected with COVID-19, they are left entirely on their own, with no safe location to quarantine, under the stated guidelines. Even with mitigation efforts such as social distancing, face mask requirements, and plexiglass shields, we strongly believe the GC plan is simply too risky.

Our students come from all over the state, including places that are currently experiencing even worse outbreaks than Baldwin County. Infection rates in Gwinnett (with over 1,752 cases per 100,000 people) and Cobb (with over 1,407 cases per 100,000) are quickly spiralling out of control. To bring large numbers of students to Milledgeville from these areas could prove disastrous. Hospital capacity in our region is already at the breaking-point. As of this writing, there is only one available ICU bed in our entire seventeen-county district. The smallest increase in cases here could cause unnecessary deaths as a result. Throughout the state, the situation is so dire, that the White House has recently urged stronger measures in Georgia, including limiting gatherings to ten people or less. Even so, a recent model from Georgia Tech shows that given the current rate of transmission, if ten people are gathered in Baldwin County, there is a 37% chance that at least one person has COVID-19.

Even with few students on campus over the summer, the University of Georgia has reported at least 390 cases tied to its Athens campus. There is also increasing evidence that aerosols are significant carriers of the virus, which GC’s mitigation efforts do little to address. In indoor spaces, COVID-19 may linger in the air for up to three hours. On Wednesday, July 29, the U.S. House coronavirus subcommittee chairman sent Governor Kemp a letter stating that Georgia is not in compliance with White House task force guidelines and gave the state until August 12 to provide documentation on how Georgia will implement measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Given all of these data-points, plus the many unknowns that still exist, we request the ability for faculty members to decide for themselves whether they will teach face-to-face or online. For those classes that will still meet face-to-face, students should be able to freely request an online option. Long-standing norms of academic freedom dictate that instructors should be allowed to teach their classes as they see fit. In these extraordinary times, it is vital for faculty to guard their own health and that of their students. Anything less would be an abandonment of our duties as educators. We can provide all of the hallmarks of our mission as the state’s only designated public liberal arts institution in an online, safe environment. This is the time to truly embrace our slogan of “Think Independently. Lead Creatively.” Otherwise, we place ourselves and our students at too great a risk.


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