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Some Senate Assembly members are concerned about COVID-19 safety protocols at large off-campus events, current University of Michigan COVID-19 guidelines and the lack of required weekly testing, they said at Monday’s Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs meeting.

SACUA Vice Chair Caitlin Finlayson, associate professor of English at U-M Dearborn, began by updating SACUA members on her conversation with Central Student Government about COVID-19 testing capacity. According to Finlayson, many students, including members of CSG, are frustrated with the University’s testing options and availability.

Currently, students without symptoms or COVID-19 exposure can get tested through the University’s COVID-19 Sampling & Testing Program, which has open appointments daily for those who are asymptomatic. Though students who have symptoms are directed to get tested at the University Health Services, they must fill out a questionnaire once there to determine whether or not they may receive testing. 

Kanakadurga Singer, SACUA member and Michigan Medicine associate professor, asked other members about the progress of the CSG COVID-19 task force, which was created in October 2020 to help advocate for student needs during the pandemic. SACUA members responded, saying they are still trying to get in contact with the task force.

Singer said she believed it is vital for the University to improve testing availability so that students who have been exposed or feel sick are able to get tested for COVID-19 in a timely manner. 

“I think it would be important for (the CSG COVID-19 task force) to know that there’s this issue between the campus testing versus the (UHS) testing and it is a problem,” Singer said. “I mean, it doesn’t make sense. I understand you don’t want sick individuals going through your testing there, but there has to be a better (way).” 

At last Monday’s SACUA meeting, faculty members also expressed frustration over the University’s hesitancy to to approve faculty members’ requests to teach remotely this semester. The University had previously canceled COVID-19 classroom notifications alerting students tested positive, sparking mixed reviews from community members and fears about the safety of in-person teaching this semester.

Finlayson said CSG is also concerned about the loose COVID-19 safety regulations at  off-campus events like football games. Since many attendees may not be University-affiliated, there is no guarantee of vaccination status or mask-wearing enforcement at the games, Finlayson said.

Finlayson also highlighted a CSG resolution that was discussed at their last meeting on Tuesday. The resolution calls on the University to require students to be tested twice a week and mandate masks at football games, among other demands. 

“CSG has a series of resolutions like wanting weekly testing and things such as that,” Finlayson said. “They did stress that they want to support faculty agency in the faculty’s classroom, that they really want instructors to have agency and discretion over their own classes to make decisions about the health and safety of their students within the classroom.” 

Michael Atzmon, SACUA member and Engineering professor, asked Finlayson if she had discussed these issues with any member of the graduate student body. Finlayson said graduate students are represented by CSG, though she would be willing to meet separately with a representative from the graduate school if other members thought it was necessary. 

Atzmon said it seemed as though faculty and students share many of the same concerns regarding COVID-19 safety.

“I’m delighted to see that there’s a lot of overlap between the motions that will be presented on Monday and what the students want, which is very encouraging,” Atzmon said. 

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