Demand that USG Give Every Student an Online Option

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333,507 people. 333,507 educational careers. 333,507 lives. 

Each of the 333,507 individuals that make up the University System of Georgia (USG) student body are key components of an institution that prides itself on being a world-class hub for higher education. Recently, the Georgia Tech student body received finalized information regarding the structure of their courses to be delivered fully in-person, online, or a hybrid of both. With exactly four weeks left until the fall semester is to begin, a key decision lies ahead for every student: take courses in person or take courses remotely. Despite the gravity of this decision, the option to take courses remotely is not readily available to many students. A predicament in which Georgia Tech is not alone.

As it currently stands, there is a process by which students can request online accommodations; however, this process presents itself as an isolated solution for those who qualify. Moreover, this does not address accessibility or security for the broader student body. This process is one of numerous, egregious examples of hurdles founded in our institutions’ inability to make independent decisions that best serve our student body. It is wholeheartedly unacceptable that students must pursue an accommodation request through the Office of Disability Services for those wishing to take their courses online this fall. Georgia Tech students, as many students across the nation, have many matters, both personal and academic, they must confront before the fall semester begins. Administrative approval for remote course delivery must not be one of them. Regardless of the acceptance rate or even the turnaround for these approvals, the option for students to take courses remotely must be frictionless and easily accessible.

Across the state of Georgia, 25 other institutions face a similar, if not higher, hurdle for requesting online classes. For some students, returning to their courses via an in-person course environment might be their best decision. For others, remote delivery might be the best decision for their academic livelihood. The decision is inherently a deeply personal one and it must be treated as much. This decision must be allowed without the administrative scrutiny that follows any approval process.

Financial considerations should not be the primary determining factor in decisions made regarding the safety of any student body - science and data should. Data from the Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH) illustrates that there has been an upward trend in COVID-19 cases across the state with more daily cases now than when USG first announced closures in March. The ongoing public health crisis has also taken the lives of over 3,000 Georgians and over 140,000 Americans. Yet, in spite of these alarming statistics, USG’s current Fall 2020 semester plans mandate in-person courses with very few exceptions, putting the lives of hundreds of thousands of students, staff, and faculty at risk. 

We, the undersigned individuals, believe in the following:

Every USG student deserves the immediate ability to select remote course delivery without the need for additional hurdles or administrative requests.

Georgia Tech recently adopted a new mission statement that reads “the Georgia Institute of Technology is a public research university established by the state of Georgia in Atlanta in 1885 and committed to developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition.” We cannot develop as leaders nor improve the human condition if we are fighting for our lives in an already-burdened ICU. We encourage that these requests are considered with speed and efficacy as if lives depend on it. Because they do.