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UI graduate employees union continues call for greater testing, shifting courses all online

A student sits in a designated area meant to encourage social distancing on the University of...
A student sits in a designated area meant to encourage social distancing on the University of Iowa campus on Wednesday, September 16th, 2020.(Aaron Hosman)
Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 6:15 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) -

The number of self-reported Covid-19 cases is trending downward this week at University of Iowa. There are still nearly 2,000 self-reported cases since the start of the school year.

In early August, University of Iowa graduate teaching assistant Michael Goldberg, led a protest to urge campus leaders to move courses 100 percent online. Now with students on campus, Goldberg said the start of the semester hasn’t been easy.

“Any disruption in the semester is a challenge to the learning process,” he said.

Goldberg chairs UE 896, the union representing graduate employees at the University. He said many of those teaching assistants are having to shift in-person classes to include new online sections.

“Seeing nearly half of their class out because of either a positive test or coming into contact, makes teaching that much more difficult,” Goldberg said.

Goldberg said the University put a focus on freshmen and sophomore courses to be taught in-person. Many of those classes being taught by graduate and non-tenure workers.

“So some of the employees of the University who have the least stability and have the least power in the University to manufacture and manifest change are the ones who are put in the highest risk situations,” Goldberg said.

He said some of those classrooms may fall short of meeting Covid safety standards.

“It’s difficult in some rooms to maintain proper distance and when you are in these rooms for one to two hours, or more, that certainly increases risks,” he said.

Goldberg said some instructors are questioning how often rooms are sanitized with only ten minutes between classes sometimes. While he said students seem to follow rules, like wearing masks on campus, he said its wrong for campus leaders to place individual blame, when rules aren’t followed off-campus.

“The students wouldn’t be in the situation to go out to these businesses or these parties if the University made a different choice about how they were going to start the semester. The students wouldn’t be making that choice, they wouldn’t be here. We would be in an online learning model,” he said.

Goldberg said it’s frustrating to see student athletes receive robust testing that’s not available to the rest of campus. He’s said there is still time for University leadership to make those changes, including his union’s main goal – to move 100 percent online.

“If we want a semester in the spring to progress more like as normal, we need to make drastic choices now,” Goldberg said.

In response, the University of Iowa said students should feel safe on campus as long as they abide by social distancing guidelines and if students do feel unsafe, they can file a complaint with the Office of Student Accountability.

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