In late December, Michigan State University (MSU), the state’s largest university with more than 50,000 students, announced it would house virtually all classes for the first three weeks of the spring semester amid the climb potency of the Omicron variant and would register COVID-19 cases. As conditions continued to worsen in Ingham County, with 38 deaths and hospitalization and test positivity rates increasing by 2 and 34 percent, respectively, in the past two weeks, MSU announced a return in-person classes starting January 31.
In mid-January, as MSU used virtual teaching, MSU student Katarina Keeley grew increasingly concerned about the dangers of a return to in-person teaching. Katarina described her feelings at the time to a reporter from the World Socialist Website“I thought it was going very well [virtually], and also I just started to feel paranoid about coming back in person. Especially when there were a lot of cases in Ingham County.
Wondering if other students had the same concerns, Katarina posted in a Class of 2023 Facebook group, asking if anyone would prefer to continue their education online.
Katarina’s message received overwhelming support from students who shared her concerns. Katarina decided to email MSU President Samuel L. Stanley asking the administration to consider offering a virtual learning option to students. Katarina said she waited just over a week for a response from Stanley and received no response. She decided to turn the email into a petition asking for a virtual learning option at MSU.
Speaking about her decision to turn to a petition, Katarina said: “I wanted other people, if they supported [a virtual learning option]to see that it wasn’t just me, it was a lot of other MSU students who wanted it too.
Over the past two weeks, Katarina’s petition has garnered strong support from students, parents and staff, receiving over 1,700 signatures. Many of the students who signed Katarina’s petition expressed their concerns about MSU’s reckless reopening in the petition comments. One student, Amanda, speaking about the dangers students face on campus wrote, “As a student, with health issues, I’m afraid of getting sick. I heard a student in the hallway of my class coughing loudly and it made me realize covid could be anywhere on campus. I’m signing because mandatory in-person classes could harm the health of others.
Expressing the particular threats faced by disabled and immunocompromised students and faculty, another signer, Brooke, wrote: “Being immunocompromised has completely changed the way I view in-person classes during this pandemic. … We’ve done that in the past, and these first three weeks … I want to feel safe and healthy. Even with all the vaccination and booster mandates, my risk exposure is even higher coming back in person. »
Katarina is deeply concerned for students and teachers who are at higher risk of illness and death: “There are people with disabilities who benefit from the online option. I know the argument is that people learn best in person, and that may be true for some people, but for others it may not be. I’m just surprised because MSU is supposed to be inclusive and make sure everyone succeeds.
Sahar, a student who lives with her spouse while attending MSU, described horrific personal experiences caused by in-person teaching in a comment supporting the petition: “…I don’t feel safe in the classroom. I had covid twice and the second time it was terrible and I cried for 5-6 days without being able to eat or sleep. As a student who lives with her husband, I was very worried that my husband would catch covid. He has to work to pay for our living and covid forced him to stay home for ten days and he was not feeling well at all, we also had problems with living expenses.
MSU’s only COVID-19 precautions, like many other colleges, include loosely enforced masking mandates, vaccination and booster requirements, and weakened quarantine measures. As of this writing, MSU has reported 59 cases in the first week of in-person classes, likely a severe undercount due to the lack of a nationwide testing and research program. campus.
Shortly after her interview with the WSWS, Katarina reported that one of her professors had tested positive for COVID-19.
MSU’s policies go hand in hand with a broader agenda, led primarily by the Biden administration, to falsely promote the Omicron variant as “mild” while normalizing infections and mass deaths. The media, union bureaucrats and college administrations have also continued to argue that returning to in-person classes is key to protecting students’ mental health and improving their education.
Katarina denounced these lies as ridiculous: “I don’t like it. It’s like 2020 didn’t even happen. … I am shocked by this answer… It is shocking that they leave us no choice. … I wonder if people don’t say that to stop worrying. We should prioritize our education, but if there’s anything I’ve learned from 2020, it’s that we should also prioritize our health.
Katarina also noted that she knows several fully vaccinated colleagues and a roommate who contracted COVID-19 on campus.
She went on to explain her own experience with COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021:
My aunt has a more sensitive immune system and during the pandemic I was living with her. Honestly, I had barely left the house, I just didn’t want anything to happen to her. She is not very old, but she is in the age group where she is most at risk. A few months ago I had another aunt who is a nurse who got COVID. My sister recently caught COVID too, and I think she’s still recovering. … My sister has other mental and physical health issues and she doesn’t leave her house often, so when she told me she had contracted COVID, I was quite shocked. …Even if they say this variant [Omicron] is benign, what if people, like my sister, have previous health issues that make it more difficult?
Speaking further on the ruling class’s policy of allowing the virus to spread among the population, Katarina said:
You can’t tell me there’s no effects [from COVID] which can still harm someone later in life or affect people later. … Look at all the deaths that occurred in 2020 due to COVID and how many people died from COVID. Even though they say it’s a milder variant, who’s to say there won’t be a stronger variant? Everything that happens [protests and petitions] At MSU and other universities, it’s pretty powerful to see students take a stand for what they believe in but, again, it’s really devastating to see what it comes down to. I guess that really shows what you were saying about how these universities are doing this just to make money.
Over the past few weeks, schools, colleges and non-essential K-12 workplaces in a dozen states, including Michigan and New York, have ended daily reporting of COVID-19 cases. 19. Katarina expressed tremendous concern over these criminal actions, saying, “I feel like it just allows colleges like MSU to say ‘look, it’s okay’ and encourage what they’re doing. … It’s shocking and disgusting. You need to keep track of these things [cases and deaths] to make things better. I don’t want people to start giving up and think everyone is going to get sick; it’s just not a good mindset.
As with all colleges and universities, MSU has an immediate financial incentive to reopen. Katarina commented on this point, noting a rather telling interaction with her own school: “I was talking to a counselor from a program I’m in, and I was asking him how his department was reacting to them coming back in person, how they feel. She says she understands how [MSU] makes a lot of money from the students living in the dorms. I appreciated the honesty, but it’s just like, is that really what you mean? »
Along with rent, MSU’s lucrative sports programs are another incentive for their willingness to sacrifice lives and health.
Katarina went on to note the stark reality hanging over students facing the return to in-person classes at colleges and K-12 schools. “It’s like they just need a body there and it’s fine. They say just get through the day and you’ll be fine. Especially with college campuses, it’s not like there won’t be parties… Some people don’t want to be in a classroom with someone who may have gone to a party on the weekend. end. You don’t know what they might have. It’s almost like paranoia.
Katarina’s petition is one of the latest entries in a growing wave of protests, open letters and petitions against the ruling class’ profit-oriented homicidal reopening policies.
Speaking about these developments, Katarina said, “I didn’t realize there were so many other protests, like at UCLA. It’s really cool to see students stand up and fight for what they believe in, but it’s sad to see that it had to come to this. … I hear things like “oh, people just have these protests and petitions because they’re lazy and don’t want to go to class,” and I just don’t get it. … The whole point of this is to prevent something worse from happening… It’s almost like a movement. I hadn’t realized all that would come out of it. I’m really grateful to all the students who support him and I never thought he would be what he is now.
the Young people and international students for social equality (IYSSE) encourages secondary school students and young people to contact us today share the conditions in your school and get involved in the fight against the pandemic.