University of Oklahoma students demanding administrators do more to protect students and essential workers need to realize that administrators have given a lot of thought to their safety.
Students who rallied outside Evans Hall on the campus in Norman demanded that most classes transition from the classroom to online platforms. They also demanded accommodations for international students who lack options for off-campus housing and a twice-weekly testing regime for every person on campus while the pandemic persists.
The small group of students accused university administrators of prioritizing tuition dollars rather than the health and safety of students, staff and faculty. They cited a message sent by email to faculty, admonishing against unilateral decisions to move classes "scheduled to be delivered in person or in a hybrid format" fully online.
OU administrators took steps to accommodate safe learning during the fall semester by ensuring classes with the largest enrollment were provided online. They pledged to prioritize safety of students and staff and respond to the pandemic accordingly.
Administrators also noted concerns about the prospect of furloughs and cuts in pay should in-person instruction be canceled. This line likely evoked some cynicism among students given the fact state officials have been talking about having "hundreds of millions of dollars" in CARES Act funds they are looking to spend — ensuring quality higher education would be a good investment.
The COVID-19 pandemic presents the greatest public health risk this nation has experienced in at least a century. The threat posed by this disease was exacerbated by the lack of a unified national response and transparency about the novel coronavirus and best practices.
It appears administrators took the steps necessary to provide a safer environment for a campus that needs to remain open for research and instruction. They should try to wrangle some pandemic relief aid from the state for essential workers.