Faculty, Students Protest at MU President’s House

They demand Mike Lovell reconsider reopening the university.

By - Aug 17th, 2020 06:44 pm
Protest at Mike Lovell's home. Photo by Ethan Duran.

Protest at Mike Lovell’s home. Photo by Ethan Duran.

On Sunday afternoon, around thirty Marquette University alumni, faculty and students chanted in front of university president Michael Lovell’s house in Fox Point. The protesters oppose the reopening of MU, fearing that this would risk spreading COVID-19 to students and the surrounding community of city residents.

One of the protest’s demands was for Marquette to act as a responsible neighbor to the west side urban community where it is located by revising its plans.

The university starts fall classes at the end of August and has released a recovery plan book online, listing the ways it would prevent the spread of coronavirus. Currently Marquette is on Step 4 of this plan.

Some of the plan’s objectives include an on-campus testing center, providing supplementary masks to faculty and a requirement that a maximum of 50 people, “appropriately physically distanced,” be allowed in any instructional space. Students arriving to campus will be provided a “welcome kit,” that includes a face covering, hand sanitizer and a digital thermometer.

Opponents of the reopening say the university has been moving forward without considering the concerns of teachers. “Teachers should be allowed to choose if they’re coming back or not,” said Tyler Reaker, a graduate student. “A lot of teachers that are being forced back into the classroom don’t feel safe with the overall plan.”

“I don’t think that realistically there’s a way to prevent an outbreak on campus,” said Brittany Pladek, an assistant professor in English at Marquette. “I think the safe and ethical option is to go fully online. I also think the university has an obligation to reach out to its community, especially the most vulnerable members of that community who will be hurt the most by this.”

“Marquette is in an area of the city that has a lot of poor people in it, a lot of people who can’t choose whether or not they’re working in areas around campus,” she said, “Marquette, by bringing students back to campus, is bringing people from across the nation when one of the ways COVID spreads is by people coming from different places. That’s bringing so many more opportunities for the virus to spread here and that’s going to adversely affect the people who can’t afford to stay home from work.”

Pladek also said that graduate students, non-tenure track faculty and staff workers, who have less security from furloughs and layoffs, should have more consideration under the university budget. “They should have bargaining power when it comes to deciding whether or not they want to risk themselves by working on a reopened campus,” she said.

After taking turns speaking into a bullhorn at Doctors Park in Bayside, the protest drove in a caravan down to Lovell’s home, which was mostly concealed by tall evergreen trees. Standing at the edge of the driveway and in the ditch across from his house, they chanted, “Health justice is racial justice,” and “Our risk, our choice.”

The group left condolence cards behind the fencing set up across the driveway entrance and chalked messages onto the road outside. Lovell wasn’t seen at his home.

Protesters took turns sharing their stories with the bullhorn. One student said the partner he lives with was immunocompromised, and that returning to class would risk the person’s life.

A recent graduate described moving back home with parents in Michigan to take online classes over the spring. “I felt like my parents would take care of me if I got sick,” the graduate said. “I knew the school wouldn’t.”

“I’d like to know how many administrators will be back on campus,” the speaker continued. “Will they be in their offices or will they be online, which they know is safer?”

On August 13, Marquette University hosted a virtual town hall meeting, which can be viewed on YouTube. During the town hall, spokespersons for Marquette explained some of the university’s methods to stop the spread of COVID-19 and answered questions asked during the chat.

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Categories: Education, Health

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