The Oregon Student Association announced this week the formation of a new coalition with college graduate employee unions and student governments across the state seeking to address student safety concerns related to the ongoing pandemic.
The coalition includes the OSA, graduate employee unions from the University of Oregon, Oregon State University, Portland State University and Oregon Health and Science University and student governments from Western Oregon University, OU and PSU.
“The coalition was formed out of a common concern for student safety during the wave of Omicron cases that arose in late 2021 through early 2022,” the acting executive director said. from OSA, Evelyn Kocher. “The purpose of the coalition is essentially to provide a shared space to talk about jurisdictional shortcomings in protecting student safety.”
Kocher told the OPB that the coalition would meet monthly to check on the status of students at Oregon institutions. She acknowledged that although the coalition formed as cases of the omicron variant began to decline in Oregon, the group wants to focus on broader issues such as diversifying the way courses are offered – since many college classes across the state have remained in-person, even as omicron cases have increased.
The OPB reached out to Oregon’s largest public universities as omicron cases surged to inquire about data on online classes and COVID-19-related absences from in-person classes. University officials were unable to provide these figures because the universities did not collect them.
According to a statement from the coalition, the group has four goals: to increase distance learning options, to increase protections for classes that must be in person, to provide transparent data on COVID-19 cases on campuses and on COVID-19 policy changes, and engage students and employees in pandemic-related decision-making processes.
“We believe these are the bare minimum we expect from university administrations to keep students safe and not have to sacrifice their physical well-being to obtain an education,” the coalition wrote.