mask mandate protest for COVID-19 on college campus; masked protestors in group of ~20 hold signs in front of table on rainy day
Demonstrators protest in the rain to demand a mask mandate on Kennesaw State University's campus on September 15, 2021. (Shawn Watkins/Fresh Take Georgia)

KENNESAW, Ga. — Some professors at Kennesaw State University joined their colleagues demonstrating at public university campuses around the state this week in hopes of shaming the University System of Georgia Board of Regents into requiring masks to fight the spread of COVID-19.

“We know that they (BOR) are not listening,” said Matthew Boedy, president of the Georgia Conference of the American Association of University Professors and an associate professor at the University of North Georgia. “They had a mask mandate last year against the governors’ expectations and wishes and they could do it again tomorrow. All they would have to do is say ‘yes.’”

Boedy’s Georgia conference, along with United Campus Workers, organized the week of daily protests at 20 Georgia public university campuses, including Kennesaw State.

The Regents have not responded directly to the protests, but acting Chancellor Teresa MacCartney issued a statement Wednesday saying the number of COVID-19 cases on campuses statewide has declined under the voluntary measures now in place.

Boedy, as well as other campus workers, have sent multiple letters to the chancellor of the BOR to “do the right thing,” and mandate mask requirements in the wake of the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19. He also called six of the 18 regents but only one regent responded and did not provide any answers.

“We are here to make our voices heard together … to let the BOR and the USG know that they need to do better to protect us and the community,” said Heather Pincock, a member of the Kennesaw State University’s Faculty Senate and leader at the first KSU demonstration Monday.

Pincock, an associate professor of conflict management, was one of about 15 people carrying signs at the demonstration on the KSU campus green throughout this week. She said she feels as though the policies in place now are “woefully inadequate.”

During the demonstrations, protesters chanted and passed out flyers, answering questions from students and others who passed by.

Jillian Ford, an associate professor of social studies, spoke to the group on Monday, saying at least 277 vaccinated and 7,556 unvaccinated people have died in Georgia of COVID-19 so far this year.

She also said the transmission rate in Cobb County alone, as of last Friday, was 663 cases per 100,000 every 14 days. 

“I think it is quite embarrassing to work for a university system that does not believe in real science,” said Ford.

Graphic from the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Georgia Breakthrough COVID-19 Report.

The professors were joined by students from the KSU Young Democrats and the Young Democratic Socialists of America. Alexx Bunker, a political science major, said he wants to see a change in his community. 

“I have had friends lose friends to COVID and it’s like, ‘Guys, mask up. Literally lives are at stake!’” He said. “We have to take this a little more seriously.” 

Bunker evoked a quote from the HBO series Game of Thrones to show that things will get worse without strict mask guidelines. 

“Hopefully it gets to the right ear and shows whoever’s in power right now that we want the mask mandates.” He said, “To quote an outdated show: Winter is coming.”

Fresh Take Georgia has called and left voicemails for the communications office of the Board of Regents for any comments and did not receive a response. The KSU president’s office only referenced the campus COVID-19 guidelines website. 

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