KSU students protest virtually over COVID policy

·3 min read
Hannah Tyson holds a sign which she planned to hold during a "die in" to protest COVID policie at Kent State University. The protest was switched to a virtual format because of weather.
Hannah Tyson holds a sign which she planned to hold during a "die in" to protest COVID policie at Kent State University. The protest was switched to a virtual format because of weather.

Kent State University students who planned a "die-in" to protest KSU's policies on COVID-19, switched their protest to a virtual format after a snow storm canceled classes on Tuesday.

The students, who joked that Tuesday's snow day was a "great start" to their primary demand of two weeks of virtual classes, said they switched the format to virtual because they didn't want to ask students to take on additional risk. Ezra Silkes, one of the students coordinating the protest, said they thought the virtual protest was "as effective, in a different way" than an in-person protest.

Speakers encouraged those in attendance to sign its petition demanding greater safety measures, and also to urge their loved ones to sign it. As of Tuesday afternoon, the petition was about 40 signatures away from its goal of 1,0000 signatures.

The group also issued a document outlining a campaign to email KSU administration and do a social media blitz, posting images of themselves simulating being dead on Twitter and Instagram. The students were encouraged to use the hashtags #DeadAndDisabledByKentState #StudentsSafeSix and #FlashesTakeCareOfFlashes. They were also urged to tag the Kent State Covid Safety Coalition in their posts, as well as members of the KSU administration.

Hannah Tyson holds a sign she planned to hold during a "Die-In' to protest COVID policies at Kent State University. The protest was switched to a virtual format because of weather.
Hannah Tyson holds a sign she planned to hold during a "Die-In' to protest COVID policies at Kent State University. The protest was switched to a virtual format because of weather.

Silkes and fellow organizer Moira Armstrong said they are both at risk for complications should they get COVID-19. Both said they prefer in-person instruction, but don't trust KSU to put protections in place to make that happen safely..

In addition to requesting remote instruction until Jan. 28, the students also are asking that KSU provide weekly N95 or KN95 masks to students free of charge each week, regular PCR tests for students, that KSU set a policy to return to remote instruction should cases rise again, adding booster shots to the university vaccine mandate, and "increased transparency" about decisions related to health.

Natalia Cruz said the university was putting profits ahead of student safety, and professor safety.

"We should not have to be here today, demanding that Kent State care about us," she said.

Lauren Vachon, a faculty member who teaches LGBT studies, suggested that students take a lesson from gay rights activists, who demanded that the U.S. government take HIV and AIDS seriously.

"Act Up used to say 'Silence equals death,'" Vachon said.

Hannah Tyson wrote in the group chat that she believed it was unfair for students to have to worry about their safety when "the rest of us have all done our part" by being vaccinated.

"The unvaccinated get to roam consequence-free when we were all told it was required," Tyson wrote.

These signs were made by Moira Armstrong and Ezra Silkes, two students who helped organize a "die-In" to protest the COVID policies at Kent State University. The protest was switched to a virtual format because of weather.
These signs were made by Moira Armstrong and Ezra Silkes, two students who helped organize a "die-In" to protest the COVID policies at Kent State University. The protest was switched to a virtual format because of weather.

Emily Vincent, spokeswoman for KSU, gave a response about the protest.

“We recognize our community members hold different opinions about COVID-19, and they are free to express their views in a respectful and peaceful manner following university procedures," she stated. "The university bases decisions about COVID-19 safety measures on the guidance of our health experts, local health authorities and the CDC, and always with the safety of our community as the top priority.”

Students, faculty and staff were to have been fully vaccinated by Dec. 20, according to the Kent State website. This is what the university considers Phase 3 of a three-phase plan to get the university community vaccinated, but university spokesman Eric Mansfield said previously that there will be required weekly testing for anyone who is not vaccinated.

Reporter Diane Smith can be reached at dsmith@recordpub.com.

This article originally appeared on Record-Courier: KSU students protest virtually over COVID policy

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