COLUMBIA, S.C. — A group of students at the University of South Carolina gathered on campus in hopes of sending a message to the administration about how they think the school is handling COVID-19 cases.
The group of around 15 met at the Maxcy Monument in the Horseshoe where they first led a group discussion,
"How the university has handled this is unacceptable. And that needs to change immediately," protester Hayden Blakeney said.
The event was advertised on the "Carolina Socialists" Instagram account. The account also listed their demands as changing all classes to fully online, increase testing to the original levels and options to move off-campus with a housing refund.
"To me, it’s less about what happens to me but what happens to everyone else," Blakeney said, "To me, it’s easy to think about one's self at a time like this but we need to learn that we have to look out for everyone. Whether that's the person cleaning the floors, that's a student, or its the president of a university.”
Blakeney said he was protesting because of personal reasons after his final semester was cut short earlier this year and his commencement was canceled.
After the group discussion, the group laid in silence in front of USC President Bob Caslen's front door holding signs that read, 'How many caskets?' and 'It's all Bob's fault.'
“The goal is we want to apply pressure on the university to move all classes online similar to what they did in March," Blakeney explained, "What happened last march is the pandemic started, cases started to rise and as a preemptive measure, they shut down the university, refunded the housing somewhat, refunded parking somewhat. The problem now is the cases are worse, the situation is worse, yet that is still happening. The school is still on and that can't continue.”
The group then marched to the Osborne Administration Building where Caslen’s office is, demanding the school reevaluate it's decisions.
“The university needs to be the adult in the room and decide we have to go home we have to go online because right now it’s a difference between sending 1,600 cases home and sending 10,000 cases home come December," Blakeney said.
The University told News19 in a statement:
“We respect and honor our students’ right to voice their opinions and our number one priority remains our faculty, staff and student’s health and well-being. It should be noted that the university has administered more than 15,000 COVID-19 tests to our students, faculty and staff since Aug. 1, and we continue to do more than 500 per day – even at a reduced testing capacity. We are committed to testing as one of our primary risk mitigation measures and expect to be back at full testing capacity soon. Additionally, every student also was given the option to attend classes completely virtually if they did not want to attend in-person classes. We continue to focus and work tirelessly on our top priority – the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff – as we provide the best educational and research experience for our students.”
The University’s Campus Case Tracker that was last updated Tuesday says there are currently 654 active cases on campus but 1,904 total cases since August 1st. The alert level is still marked as low.