Students organize “die-in” on Skiles

Students left protest signs in the lap of Tech’s Albert Einstein statue after the die-in was over. // Photo by Taylor Gray, Student Publications

At 12:00 pm on August 17, the Young Democratic Socialists Club (YDSA) in partnership with the United Campus Workers of Georgia (UCWGA) at the Georgia Institute of Technology hosted a die-in protest near Tech Green. The protest drew a crowd of nearly 50 protestors as they expressed their disappointment in the Institute and the University System of Georgia (USG) as campuses continue to re-open amidst a pandemic. 

While protestors expressed their concerns and anger at the Board of Regents and Tech’s President Ángel Cabrera through a speakerphone, a mixture of undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty gathered around holding signs and booing the administration. 

Brett Tregoning, Ph.D. Physics, was one of the main organizers of the event and explained what ultimately led to the protest. 

“We have been engaged in a campaign for months to ensure that we have pandemic safe policies for the return to campus, and most of those demands got fallen on deaf ears. Some of that was the fault of the administration, but most of it is the fault of the state governing body for that University System of Georgia Board of Regents,” said Tregoning. 

A graduate student, who wishes to remain anonymous, was also one of the few students who helped spark the planning of the protest. 

“The die-in was protesting the BOR and Dr. Cabrera’s forcing students, faculty, and staff to return to campus when the science says we shouldn’t. It was also about asserting local autonomy — that our institution should be able to make decisions based on the situation on the ground,” said the student. 

The two organizations purposely chose a die-in to “simulate dying because people have already died. There have been two USG workers that I know of who have died of COVID-19 over the summer, and that’s only going to get worse now that everyone’s back on campus,” said Tregoning.

“We need them to close campus down, except for when students have no other option. We need fully remote classes, except when there are no other options. We need hazard pay for staff and support for them from the admin. And we need the autonomy to make our own decisions,” said the anonymous graduate student.

The crowd proceeded to march around Tech Green chanting various phrases such as, “To hell with Georgia regents.” Upon arriving at the lawn outside of the Skiles Classroom Building, Dr. Brian Magerko, a professor and a director of graduate studies at Tech, took center stage and expressed faculty support for the students protesting administration. 

“We’re here because our leaders won’t stand up for us. We’re here because money is more important than our lives,” said Magerko. Magerko decided to participate in the protest after witnessing the lack of support from other faculty in the student body’s efforts. 

“I feel like faculty needs to support the student body … I know that the reason there’s a lot of students here and not staff and faculty, and I think it’s on the senior campus members, tenured professors, or professors especially to stand up for the folks who don’t have a job.”

Outside of Skiles, protestors laid down silently on the lawn and proceeded to blast social media efforts of the protest by posting on their Instagram stories and tweeting at President Cabrera and the Board of Regents while using #jacketsinfectjackets.

Protestors remained on the lawn for approximately 20 minutes before proceeding to get up and march around Tech Green once more. Two GTPD officers observed the march from the sidelines but did not intervene or interact with protestors, and the crowd had dispersed by 1:00 p.m.