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Protest Held Against Possible Dangers of Reopening OU Campus In The Fall

A protest against the possible dangers of reopening the University of Oklahoma’s campus for in person instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic took place Tuesday outside of the OU Board of Regents meeting. 

The “Die-In and Drive Up Protest” attracted OU faculty and staff, alumni, students and drivers who passed by to honk their horns to express what seemed to be support. 


Sarah Warmker, a Spanish instructor at OU who participated in the die-in, said instructors and faculty haven’t been able to appropriately prepare for what will probably be the most challenging semester of their careers. 


Faculty and staff are very committed to supporting students and making sure that they have the best educational experience possible,” Warmker said. “But it doesn't improve the educational experience of a student to endanger the life of a faculty member or of a staff member, and especially not when we're not being adequately compensated for the risks that we're taking and for the extra work that we're taking on.” 


The protesters want the university to adjust its reopening plan and teaching guidelines for the fall semester, which aims to ensure students have a “primarily in-person experience.” 


All classes with over 40 students have been moved online for the fall, but classes with enrollment under that number can take place in person. Faculty had the option to submit a request to adjust their mode of teaching for reasons such as having an increased risk for severe illness due to COVID-19.


The protestors had a list of demands for the university: 

  1. No medical disclosure. 
  2. Online option for all instructors with no penalties or qualifications. 
  3. Time and a half for hourly staff. 150% hazard pay and paid sick leave for all on-campus hourly staff. 
  4. Remote work option for any positions that can be done remotely. 
  5. Furlough anyone making $100,000 a year or more before any layoffs. 

Warmker said she won’t comply with policies that endanger the lives of faculty and staff. 

Helen Grant, an OU alum who participated in the die-in, said she’s been disappointed in the way the university has handled important subjects over the past few years. 


“Even though I’m not attending or my children are not attending at this point, being involved right now is setting the tone for the future, which needs to be done,” Grant said. 


The fall semester begins Aug. 24. 


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Katelyn discovered her love for radio as a student employee at KGOU, graduating from the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, and then working as a reporter and producer in 2021-22. Katelyn has completed internships at SiriusXM in New York City and at local news organizations such as The Journal Record and The Poteau Daily News. Katelyn served as president of the OU chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists from 2017 to 2020. She grew up in Midland, Texas.
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