Despite ongoing protests by university staff and calls for changes to COVID-19 policy, the Georgia Board of Regents took no action during its meeting Thursday.

This story also appeared in Georgia Public Broadcasting

Georgians, educators and the University System of Georgia Board of Regents all know what to do when it comes to COVID-19 precautions.

That’s what Gov. Brian Kemp has said many times, and it’s what the acting board chancellor, Teresa MacCartney, said during Thursday’s board meeting.

“What we know is the single most effective way to keep from getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 is to get vaccinated and to wear a mask,” MacCartney said. 

But that doesn’t mean the board means to change policy.

As it stands now, students, staff and faculty are encouraged to be vaccinated and wear masks, but neither measure is required. Professors also aren’t allowed to enforce any additional mandates in their classrooms.

About the same time the board held its September meeting Thursday, people began participating in a “die-in” protest at Georgia State University.

The same group, United Campus Workers of Georgia, protested at GSU last week, demanding increased precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19. They plan to attend some of the protests organized by the Georgia chapter of the American Association of University Professors. 

Educators and students across campuses statewide plan to demonstrate for an entire week, AAUP Georgia President Matthew Boedy said.

“Faculty across the state are speaking in one voice, targeting the USG and the Regents,” Boedy said.

Georgia Tech professor Marc Weissburg said that teachers don’t feel protected.

“The chaos and uncertainty only make things worse,” he said. “That is the direct responsibility of the leadership of the state, and that needs to change.”

The Board of Regents is the only group with the power to mandate masks, and MacCartney said people throughout the state have the ability to get vaccinated and wear a mask.

“Yes, we’re doing everything we can to get students, faculty and staff access to vaccinations and to wear masks on campuses,” MacCartney said. “Campuses have been urged to communicate, communicate early, often widely, about those and other important measures.”

The board members “continue to be in alignment with the governor’s expectations and requirements for state agencies,” MacCartney said, adding that they will not be swayed by protests.

“Attacking our presidents and campus administrators is not productive and does not and will not drive how we make decisions within the University System of Georgia,” MacCartney said.

With close to 100,000 employees, there are bound to be disagreements over handling the pandemic, she said.

This story comes to The Current through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.

Ellen Eldridge/GPB

Ellen Eldridge is a reporter for Georgia Public Broadcasting.