Professors met under the shade of Augusta University’s famed oak trees on Monday, Sept. 13 to urge the Georgia Board Of Regents to adopt a mask and vaccination mandate for college campuses throughout the state.
Around 10 faculty members met at “the teardrop” in the center of the campus, armed with signs and sidewalk chalk. Some of the signs read “follow the science” and “don’t be a mask-hole.” After taking group pictures holding up the signs, the professors began leaving pro-vaccination messages chalked onto the sidewalks.
Of the 26 colleges and universities governed by the Georgia Regents, 19 of them are participating in the statewide protests. The protests are being sponsored by the Georgia chapter of the American Association of College Professors.
According to local organizer Dustin Avent-Holt, assistant professor of sociology, having a mask and vaccination mandate is just common sense.
“It is just the reasonable thing to do to keep everyone safe,” he said.
According to Avent-Holt, the Georgia Regents are refusing to mandate masks and vaccinations and they are preventing individual campuses from making their own mandates. He said that he believes adding an incentive for professors and students to get vaccinated would be helpful, but the Georgia Regents are barring campuses from coming up with incentives.
The city of Augusta is giving out $100 to those accepting the vaccine. The program began on Aug. 19.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has called federal vaccination mandates a “blatantly unlawful overreach” and has indicated that the state will sue if President Biden’s mandates go into effect. Avent-Holt said he recognizes that the mandates are a political hot potato and he believes that the Georgia Regents are falling in lockstep with the governor.
“I know they are following the guidance of the governor. I don’t know if they are actively working with him or just following his lead,” Avent-Holt said.
According to Avent-Holt, there are plenty of precedents involving health mandates on Georgia college campuses. In 1990, a measles outbreak occurred on the campus of the University of Georgia and the Georgia Regents required everyone on campus to receive a measles vaccination.
Masks were required at Augusta University in 2020, but the rule was relaxed prior to the discovery of the delta variant, according to Avent-Holt.
As of Sept. 13, there are currently 160 people hospitalized at University Health alone and there are four patients on ventilators. Out of that number, only four of the patients have been vaccinated and none of those vaccinated patients are on ventilators.
The protests at Augusta University will continue all week with the event on Tuesday starting at 11 a.m., Wednesday at noon, Thursday at 1 p.m. and Friday at 2 p.m.
“We have a mutual obligation to one another, an obligation not to do harm to other people. We need to keep it safe and the Board of Regents has an obligation to help,” Avent-Holt said.