The Coalition of Graduate Employees at Penn State hosted a “die-in” protest Monday, demanding the university revise its plan to bring students back on campus in the fall.
Speaking in front of Old Main, Maggie Hernandez, an organizer with the coalition, said it’s unsafe for Penn State to plan for in-person classes in the fall.
“If they do value and support us, they will listen to our demands, prioritize our safety and switch to fully online instruction in the fall,” Hernandez said.
After several speakers, about 30 protest attendees took part in a die-in, lying on the ground for 14 minutes to symbolize the 140,000 COVID-19 deaths nationwide.
The coalition said having thousands of students return in a few weeks could overload Mount Nittany Medical Center, which announced last month it would cut 250 staff. Chrissy Thompson, who attended the rally, works at the hospital and said she agrees.
“There are parts of the hospital that are shut down, there are wings that are shut down and I just don’t know that we’re going to have the facilities and the staff available if there is a surge when the students return,” Thompson said.
In addition, the coalition wants to know what metrics Penn State will use to decide when to close the campus if cases rise. Penn State has said there isn’t one number that would trigger the end of in-person classes.
University President Eric Barron told the Board of Trustees last week that nearly half of all fall courses will be in-person or a mix of in-person and remote learning, which will mostly serve upper level students. The fall semester is scheduled to begin on Monday, August 24.
As of Monday, the state Department of Health reports 288 cases of COVID-19 in Centre County and more than 101,000 cases in Pennsylvania.