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UK student group criticizes reopening strategy, leading to social media exchange with UK account

Posted at 7:43 PM, Aug 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-06 11:35:26-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Movement for Black Lives UKY, a student-run organization, took to Twitter Tuesday afternoon to criticize the University of Kentucky’s reopening plans as students lined up for the first week of mandatory COVID-19 testing at the university’s campus.

“Requiring students to get tested once is a problem. What happens when bars are opening and house parties are going on? Students aren’t required to get another test. So testing once as a baseline test does nothing at that point,” said MBL founder Khari Gardner.

The social media thread raised concerns with several elements of the university’s reopening strategy, claiming some of UK’s decisions put the community at risk.

“We’re in a country that debates whether the coronavirus is real or not. What makes sense is to open up to tens of thousands of students, faculty, staff, and community members. We’re not only putting the students at risk. We’re putting the Lexington community members at risk,” Gardner said.

UK’s official Twitter account responded to all points raised by Gardner’s organization, including critiques about not mandating faculty and staff be tested for COVID-19 and allowing instructors to require in-person attendance for certain classes.

“I thought the exchange yesterday was about the institution trying to provide answers,” said UK spokesperson Jay Blanton. “I don’t know that there’s a more robust and comprehensive plan in the country. Does that mean it’s going to be perfect? No. Does that mean there’s going to be hiccups? Absolutely. But we’re going to be monitoring every day what’s happening on the ground and we are in a position where we can be nimble and we can pivot if we need to make changes.”

Some of the university’s responses drew criticism from community members, including one response to student concerns about trusting UK students to be accountable for their health. UK tweeted back at MBL saying, “Interesting that we have more faith in your fellow students than you do,” a response which some community members called disrespectful, condescending and unprofessional.

“I want to say too we never want to come across as dismissive or disrespectful so to the extent we did, we would apologize for that. But I would say if you look at the vast majority and there are several exchanges there, I think they would be categorized as pretty matter-of-fact,” Blanton said in response to direct questions about the tweets.

Gardner said he’s disappointed in the way UK handled Tuesday’s conversation and feels it was a missed opportunity for discussion and improvement.

“This is not a faith issue. This is an institutional responsibility to protect the risk of the coronavirus spreading in the community.”