Passing a megaphone around and wiping it down after each use, MU students voiced their concerns about COVID-19 safety Friday morning.
“Who's health? Our health!” and “Students over statues” were the rallying cries of about 30 students participating in a protest organized by the Missouri Coalition for COVID Safety . The protest took place on Francis Quadrangle in front of the MU columns, where students held up signs that read “We won't die for your dollars” and “Choi = liar.”
According to its Twitter bio, the coalition consists of “organizations and individuals across Missouri & the University of Missouri System demanding our health and wellbeing be taken into account.”
The organization released a letter of demands, including a call for increased COVID-19 testing, turning to fully virtual learning, the removal of the Thomas Jefferson statue and protection of staff, faculty and students who speak critically of university policies.
Demonstrators expressed their concerns with the way MU administrators are handling COVID-19 safety.
University of Missouri System President and MU Chancellor Mun Choi on Thursday told the UM System Board of Curators the university will remain open as long as there isn’t another surge of COVID-19 cases. As of Friday at noon, MU’s tracker showed 95 active student cases. There have been 1,546 total student cases since Aug. 19.
Choi also said there has been 100% compliance system-wide with the new restrictions on wearing masks and social distancing in classrooms.
In August, Mizzou Athletics announced the capacity of Faurot Field’s stadium will be reduced to 25%. Despite this, protesters said they were concerned about the MU football game scheduled for Saturday night against the University of Alabama. As of Sept. 19, the University of Alabama reported 119 student cases for that week.
The protesters also criticized MU’s decision to spend $20,000 on the casing for the Jefferson tombstone, which a number of students have requested to be taken down along with the nearby bronze statue of Jefferson.
“How many COVID tests does $20,000 pay for? We did the math,” demonstrators shouted. “133. That’s 133 tests not getting done.”
Olivia McGee, 21, is a senior at MU and a member of the Missouri Coalition for COVID Safety. She spoke about how seeing the Jefferson statue affects her experience at MU.
“As someone who was assaulted at a college party and someone who knows many people who have been assaulted at this here campus, I don’t think it’s fair, especially to Black students on this campus who have to walk by this statue that is a reminder of a man who kept Sally (Hemings) as his concubine,” McGee said.
Nine groups from the UM System undersigned the letter of demands, including the Sunrise Movement, English Graduate Student Association and College Democrats at UMSL.
Several protesters said they feared spreading the disease to high-risk family members. Others spoke about the risk faculty and staff face by having in-person classes.
Protesters also spoke about getting free testing, comparing MU to the University of Illinois, which has a twice-per-week test schedule for undergraduate students.
“We deserve rapid (and free) tests,” one sign read.