Over a dozen members of Students Against Social Injustice (SASI) participated in what they called a “die-in” on the afternoon of Sept. 16. Holding signs that read “Save our health, not UMiss wealth” and “People over profits,” the students gathered around the Lyceum to protest university administrators’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are here for an education that we can’t get because we are terrified of a virus that our chancellor could have protected us from,” one SASI member said at the protest.
All participants said they were “instructed not to talk to the media” by their media liaison and refused to state their names.
In a media advisory released by SASI, the stated purpose of the protest was “to highlight the lack of transparency from university administration regarding COVID-19, to make demands of university administration and to support workers on campus making demands for safer conditions.”
The group carried a painted cardboard coffin inscribed with the words “We won’t die for your dollars” and placed it at the Circle-facing door of the Lyceum. Some participants proceeded to move to either side of the building to chant mantras like “We have reached our boiling point. Student workers run this joint,” and “Up, up, up with the workers, down, down, down with the bosses.”
While several students voiced the group’s grievances, a few of them laid down in front of the steps and placed signs shaped like headstones above themselves. At one point during the demonstration, three Starship food delivery robots interrupted, running into the protesters who were lying down on the sidewalk.
“When the administration finally decided to resume the fall semester as ‘normal,’ its snail paced deliberations resulted in a rushed attempt to finalize classes, ultimately to the detriment of not only students, but families, faculty, staff and workers,” the SASI media advisory said. “Since the start of our fall semester, cases of COVID-19 on campus have skyrocketed, putting students, faculty, staff and Oxford community members at risk.”
As of the day of the protest, the UM COVID-19 dashboard shows 56 active confirmed cases at the university, down from a high of over 250 cases last week. There are also currently six on-campus outbreaks, all of which are in on-campus housing. That number is also a downward trend from last week’s 16 campus outbreaks, which were also among campus programs.
Tex Boren, SASI media liaison, said that a lot of students do not trust the coronavirus dashboard.
“We’ve seen the numbers go up and then go down on an already-confusing dashboard, in my opinion. I can’t see what I need to see, so it takes a minute to figure out the layout,” Boren said.
Another SASI member addressed Chancellor Glenn Boyce directly, saying that all Boyce cared about was making money from the students he is supposed to serve.
“You sit on an $88,000 cheater’s bonus (and) an $800,000 salary, all while continuing to increase university profit off of our being here,” she said. “If a student or worker dies on this campus, their lives are on your hands.”