The way forward for University of Michigan faculty and students in the fight against the pandemic | #students | #parents

Thousands of students, staff and faculty at the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor are once again engaged in a courageous struggle to close the campus for in-person learning and save lives. Their fight is in direct opposition to the administration’s reckless decision to reopen for in-person classes on Wednesday, which comes in the face of skyrocketing local infections and hospitalizations from the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Striking graduate students picket at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, on September 11, 2020 (WSWS photo)

Over 1,500 students and faculty have signed an open letter to President Mark Schlissel and Provost Susan Collins published on December 17 calling for a two-week delay to in-person learning. More than 1,600 have signed an additional letter committing faculty to an “e-pivot.” According to the “e-pivot,” faculty will hold their classes online, despite the university’s in-person policy.

The response from the university administration thus far has been to move full steam ahead with the reopening plans. UM President Schlissel has defended the plans using the same talking points and lies being pushed at the highest levels of the political establishment, most ferociously by the White House itself.

The International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) welcomes and supports the stand taken by graduate students and faculty. However, for students, staff and faculty to carry out a successful struggle to save lives, their demands must not be directed by what they think the administration might allow but by what scientists insist is necessary to save lives and end the pandemic.

In this regard, one must clearly state the facts and lies about COVID-19 and schools.

First, throughout the pandemic, every experience in reopening schools, along with every credible scientific study, has proven that classrooms and dorm rooms are major vectors of COVID-19 spread. They are not safe for in-person learning.

Days before the reopening of campus, Schlissel issued a statement to the UM community stating that “our classrooms, with required vaccination and masking, have remained safe throughout the pandemic.” To justify the reopening of K-12 schools, Biden falsely stated on December 21, “Children are as safe in school as they are anyplace.”

The reality is that in nearly every case, towns and cities with colleges that reopened for in-person learning in 2020 and 2021, or that, for one reason or another, allowed large numbers of students to return to their dorms quickly become some of the worst hot spots in the country.

Following the fall 2020 semester, the New York Times published an analysis of more than 200 counties with substantial college student populations. According to the data, the overall COVID-19 deaths rose faster in these counties than elsewhere in the country. In fact, deaths in those counties doubled since the end of August, compared with a 58 percent increase elsewhere. Now, faced with an even more infectious variant, school administrations around the country are again forcing teachers and students back into unsafe classrooms.

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