University of Virginia students, workers stage a ‘die in’ to protest in-person classes

Updated: Sep. 2, 2020 at 10:34 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Students and workers at the University of Virginia are pushing back against the university’s decision to start in-person classes on Sept. 8.

The demonstrators showed their concerns through the lens of the worst possible outcome.

At a die-in, staged by the United Campus Workers of Virginia, a university workers union, and a few Democratic student groups, participants shared this message: this is what will happen around the community.

“When we saw last week that UVA decided to keep going with its disastrous plan to hold in-person classes, we knew that we had to do something,” said André Zazzera, a graduate student who also works as a tutor.

The demonstration was a display of what these UVA students and workers fear most: death from the virus.

“I want UVA to know that a lot of people are going to get very sick, and a lot of people could die,” said organizer Sarandon Elliott, who is also a member of the university’s chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America

While many college students are among the most likely to recover from the virus, Elliott says that doesn’t change their demands.

“Even if, say, a 20- or 21-year-old got COVID, they could spread it to someone that’s immuno-compromised, someone that’s older,” she said. “And a lot of people, considering the fact that there have been people that haven’t showed symptoms. Again, it’s just too much of a risk.”

The university provided a written statement to NBC29 after the die in .

“The University values the input and various perspectives from across the community and we have engaged stakeholders from across the University and broader communities throughout the Return to Grounds process,” the statement read. “The safety of every member of our community remains our highest priority.”

However, there was pushback on that idea.

“UVA’s actions are not in line with proper care for the protection of human lives,” said Madison Perry, a third-year student. “This is shameful for an institution that would have us call it great, and good.”

Zazerra says to keep everyone safe requires a change in course and the time to act is now.

“Stop,” he said. “It’s not too late. Keep people at home. Don’t start doing in-person classes for the undergrads, don’t keep bringing thousands of more students back.”

Among the other demands were hazard pay for all employees and a tuition freeze through the 2022-23 school year.

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