GEO has been collecting testimonials from our members, undergraduates, staff, faculty, and wider community members regarding their concerns about the COVID-19 situation on campus.
Although many we received came before Tuesday’s stay-in-place order, we continue to receive them.
For transparency and awareness, we are sharing the testimonials we receive here.
We would like to state that these are not opinions, thoughts, concerns, etc. crafted by GEO at the organizational level, but they are what’s on the mind of our community.
While some of these testimonials comment on undergraduate behavior, GEO continues to emphasize that the responsibility for the out-of-control situation on the Ann Arbor campus lies squarely with university administrators, not with undergraduate students. We have shared these testimonials regardless, as is, because we are committed to relaying the scope of our community’s worries. As we wrote in our Tuesday statement following the issuance of the stay-in-place order, “… at some point we must consider that the university was in the perfect position to understand student life but created the structural realities that led to these devastating outcomes. A plan that relies on 100% compliance to be successful, with no room for contingency, is unsafe, irresponsible, and doomed to fail.”
Graduate student: “My students feel scared and betrayed. They don’t feel betrayed by me as an instructor, as the university tried to suggest when we went on strike back in September, but rather by a university that they feel has little regard for their safety and wellbeing. I have an athlete in my class who has already survived (but has still not fully recovered) one bout of COVID that they caught from playing the sport they love and is now afraid that they will have to go through a second round of this deadly disease because of the university’s decision to move forward with sports. When my first student tested positive for COVID this semester it felt like a punch straight to the gut even though I knew it was an inevitable eventuality. You would think that the university would have offered this student support and resources, but ultimately this student had to go outside of the university for testing, waited multiple days to be contacted by contact tracers, and chose to quarantine in an Airbnb instead of facing the horrifying conditions we have all seen in the university’s quarantine housing. Thankfully this student had the resources to find care for themselves, but what about my students who do not have those same personal resources? It feels like yet another eventuality that more of my students will test positive before the university sends students home at Thanksgiving, but I am not done fighting for their health and safety.”
Undergraduate student and campus worker: “My on-campus workspace is over 20,000 square feet with hundreds of regular occupants. Cleaning every “high-touch surface” in the building takes several hours. We limit occupancy, try to enforce physical distancing, and rigorously track who comes in and out, but it still doesn’t feel like enough. If one sick person lies about their symptoms, or comes in while asymptomatic, we’re going to have a huge outbreak. I feel overwhelmed trying to keep everything clean and safe — it’s just not possible to handle everything at once in such a big and busy place. Don’t get me wrong, I love working here — I love being on campus, seeing my friends, and working with so many other hardworking, smart, talented people. But this place should not be open. Campus should not be open. It’s just not safe.”
Undergraduate student: “I’m living in Mary Markley Hall, and there were just twelve additional cases reported on one floor. The department of Environment, Health and Safety doesn’t tell us which side of the building or in what house cases are from in their updates, just that there are cases on a floor. The rest is left to student group chats and word of mouth, so that students can figure out whether they’ve used the same facilities and hallways as someone who had COVID-19. I sent an email to the COVID-19 reporting line of the EHS department voicing my concerns but was never given a response. What’s more, I spoke to a friend living in West Quad who shared that their residents are being given this information.
“Additionally, the ResponsiBlue check requirement is completely unrealistic. Half of my friends have never used it before, and when my floor had mandatory testing I had to tell the people in line how to complete it. They had never heard of the screening check, because it isn’t actually required, it’s “encouraged”. Some of my friends living in Mosher-Jordan began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms but didn’t want to complete the screening check because they “were sure it was just a head cold”, and felt better within a few days. Whether these were actually symptoms of COVID-19, and my friends were spreading the virus during this time, is something that will likely never be known because the screening checks are not mandatory. Students would rather lie on the screening check or try to “push through” through symptoms to avoid being quarantined- a valid feeling, but one that doesn’t put the rest of the campus community first. My roommate and I try to stay optimistic and keep practicing social distancing and healthy habits, but we’re almost constantly worried about some new cases popping up or another friend who’s feeling sick. Why the University of Michigan admin, who is aware of their ability to relieve community anxiety by being transparent in case locations and carrying out widespread testing, does not choose to do so is something that both perplexes and angers me.”
Undergraduate student: “I’m so tired. Even though I sleep eight hours a night, I can barely keep my eyes open every day in class. Even though I live with my parents, there are some days when I never see them at all because I’m too busy staring at a screen fifteen hours a day. I’m relapsing in my eating disorder, going through a bit of an identity crisis, and struggling immensely in my classes. I’m almost definitely autistic, but I can’t get an official diagnosis because they’re prohibitively expensive, so I also can’t get any of the academic support that I desperately need. I also can’t afford to not graduate this year, so I have no choice but to press on. I never struggled this much before, but I’m stuck in a bad living situation due to the pandemic, and online learning fundamentally doesn’t work for me.”
Staff member: “I am a high-risk individual who lives near campus. After the semester began, visibly and audibly ill people started streaming by my building; maskless individuals have coughed nearby and without covering their mouths almost every time I’ve taken out the trash or gotten the mail since then. Though I’m currently experiencing exacerbations of the conditions that put me at risk, the soaring local infection rate means that I cannot access the diagnostics or care necessary for assessing the extent of these flares or managing them effectively; additionally, my dentist is unable to safely see me for a separate and now protracted dental crisis. I have become a prisoner in my home, languishing and deteriorating because of the university’s reckless anti-science intransigence, unbridled greed, and utter disregard for the welfare and lives of Washtenaw County’s 350,000+ residents.
“The members of the administration and regents responsible for inflicting the protracted and widespread abuse, grievous bodily harm and homicidal negligence that have characterized this purportedly public health-informed atrocity of a reopening must be removed, prosecuted, and, where applicable/if possible (looking at you Mark Schlissel, Rob Ernst and Preeti Malani) lose their medical licenses—and their replacements need to initiate a comprehensive, multi-stakeholder process of truth and reconciliation to begin repairing the damage and helping us heal. “
Alum & current staff member: “This winter the pandemic cut my last semester of grad school short, and though we made lots of sudden adjustments I felt confident U-M would figure out reasonable safety precautions over the summer. Especially with the good reputation of Michigan Medicine and research. Maybe the cancelled campus jobs I’d hopefully applied to this spring would even be re-posted. Today, I continue to work remotely in a part-time job I began as a grad student, and I am relieved I’m not asked to come in to do in-person work. My kids go to school in Washtenaw County and we chose virtual school for them, a relief since our little school system has had several in-person COVID cases this October. Reading between the lines of university statements and reading about the experiences of students on campus, I’m not confident it would be safe for me or my family for me to come in to work in Ann Arbor. I know I’m not alone in questioning the schools’ public health decisions or whether the motives of the school’s leaders put financial concerns above our safety.”
Undergraduate student: “My boyfriend, who I sustained close contact with over an extended period of time, tested positive for covid. I tried to get tested at UHS multiple times and they REFUSED to test me. All of the places in town were completely booked up for covid testing. I had to get an Uber to drive me an HOUR AWAY to get a covid test that I paid $125 for.”
Graduate student: “My students are struggling to get tested for covid because UHS refuses to test them. Part of my job as an instructor apparently now includes helping my students find somewhere to get tested because the University has left them without any resources or help. My students are scared and struggling. The University has outsourced all of its responsibilities to its students and the surrounding community. This is deplorable.”
Undergraduate student: “I am an undergrad at the university and I am pissed that university admin have been blaming US for their failures! I have friends at other universities who get tested twice a week, for FREE, BY their university! Meanwhile I can’t even convince UHS to give me one test, even though I paid a $50 covid fee this semester.”
Graduate student: “Several of my students have now tested positive for covid. Some students have been staying in a hotel room because they’re terrified of the university quarantine housing. It is breaking my heart that they’re going through this.”
Graduate student: “Since the university refuses to guarantee GSIs a universal remote option, I am trying to get out of this place as soon as possible. I’ve considered dropping out. I feel like this university is trying to kill me. I spent most of my summer trying to figure out my own safety plans for the semester since the university is failing us– time I COULD have spent on my research is being devoted to dealing with the mess the University has created and it pisses me off so much.”
Graduate student: “I’m an international student. I have a lot of uncertainty about my plans for next semester, and the international center is so pointless. I can’t believe how the university didn’t provide us with any support despite the GEO strike.”
Graduate student: “I live in Northwood I and began seeing UM employees in full hazmat gear cleaning up empty apartments in my building last week. Last night around 6pm an unmarked white van pulled up on the grass next to my building (roughly ~15 ft from my kitchen window,) and ushered someone inside one of those apartments. Today the person actually has their apartment door open which is unsettling because it’s only ~10 feet from my door and I have to walk past their door to leave.
“I emailed Housing on Friday to ask if living in a field hospital entitles me to break my lease. Have not gotten a response. Emailed again this morning to ask if students in quarantine/isolation are allowed to have their doors open but have not gotten a response.”
Undergraduate student: “I am very concerned about our safety with u of m placing covid positive patient on north campus. North campus is full of families and children. They have plenty of other spaces on campus to place these students and keep them away from people, but placing them in north campus is irresponsible.”
Graduate student: “I saw the lack of transparency from the university early on, thanks to GEO, and thanks to my inherent privilege I was able to take a leave of absence for the year. The university could have followed a science based plan, but because they didn’t, I will be behind in my life plan by a year, and I consider myself damn lucky. A lot of my former students aren’t so lucky. Because of everything that has happened, I’ve had severe anxiety and depression. If I were also subject to what these undergrads are facing, being socially starved before returning to a full campus with faculty and staff who don’t understand basic online pedagogy, disease transmission, nor empathy, I would be contemplating suicide day in and day out. And thanks to how overwhelmed every aspect of medical help is on campus, let alone how underfunded CAPS is, I know I wouldn’t have gotten the help I needed.”
Alum & community member: “Standing at Walgreens today waiting for my prescription pickup, a group of UMICH girls were chatting about the new stay at home orders. As they wrapped up their conversation, one says “I would so love to hug you right now but I’m pretty sure I have COVID”. What the fuck. Yet she is standing with 4 other girls (seemed to be sorority based on the fact that two were wearing letters) in a pharmacy.”
Undergraduate student: “I am a freshman living in Mary Markley. Yesterday, multiple individuals on my hall returned from isolation. Not only were they in isolation for just 8 days after testing positive (less than the mandated 10-day window), but they were still experiencing symptoms. They then went around the hall visiting friends without masks on and having visitors in their room, all because they had been given a false sense of safety and health by the university. I gathered all of this from inside my room as they had these conversations loudly and openly in the hallway. There is no reason these individuals should have been released from isolation, yet the university still allowed them to return to residential communities where safety guidelines aren’t being upheld.
Further, my floor was placed in a pseudo-quarantine over a week ago, which was followed by the building a few days later. During this time, dorm parties were still being held and residents were still leaving regularly. Now that we are under a stay-in-place order, the defiance has only gotten worse. However, through all of this, there has been zero enforcement on behalf of housing. It’s utterly horrifying.”
Graduate student: “I’m a first year graduate student teaching an in-person lab. So far, I’ve had 2 students test positive, 5 students tell me they couldn’t come in because their dorm/housing was under quarantine, and 2 more students not come in because they weren’t feeling well that day and wanted to get tested (but tested negative). I only teach 35 students. This is a terrifying amount of spread, and it’s not from the in-person lab (which has a great policy for the current situation). Most of these students were in different groups/sections.”