Organization forms to demand student, employee support


Courtesy of UA Emergency Action Network

Grace Schepis | @GraceSchepisCW, Staff Reporter

A University of Alabama freshman, Sam Badger, started a GroupMe network last week in hopes to be the voice of the UA community during these uncertain times. 

Included were student representatives from organizations across campus, but the group is open to anyone looking to get involved. They are called the UA Emergency Action Network, and their goal is to “organize, help, advocate for and provide information to the UA community.”

“I started it because I thought we needed a network for different organizations on campus to coordinate a response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Badger said. “Our first goal was conducting a survey to see what the community needed and wanted, and then based on the results of that survey and much discussion with various leaders on campus, we decided it was necessary to draft a letter to the University laying out what the community needs in order to be protected in this time of crisis.”

From March 21 to 25, the UA Emergency Action Network released a comprehensive survey to gauge involved parties’ reactions to UA’s recent response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as check up on the individual status of each respondent. The Google form was shared via GroupMe, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and reached students, faculty members, parents, campus workers and others directly affected by the actions of the University at this time. Over 500 responses were recorded over this period of time. 

The survey began by asking respondents to rank how they are currently doing on a scale of one (“I need help”) to five (“best I’ve ever been”). Nearly half of respondents self-evaluated their present situation as a three. The survey then broke down specific scenarios that a person may be experiencing and asked respondents to mark if they were currently dealing with any of the following: food insecurity, housing insecurity, mental health problems, employment insecurity, financial instability, problems with healthcare access, contact with the coronavirus, poor or no internet access or none of the above.

While 180 respondents reported that they were not dealing with any of the listed scenarios, 197 people shared that they were currently dealing with mental health issues. This was the most prominent issue among respondents, with employment insecurity (167) and financial instability (166) not far behind. 

The degrees to which people were experiencing these issues was not recorded, but the following question asked if any of the listed circumstances is something people fear they will face in the future. In this case, the 180 people who are not currently facing any issues dropped to 77, meaning that 103 people expect future issues could arise. 

Each scenario saw an increase in people expecting to experience it, with dealing firsthand with the coronavirus being the biggest jump (from 18 to 261 respondents choosing it). See all the results below.

UA students, faculty members, parents and campus workers understand that this is a fast spreading disease, and that is what motivated Sam Badger and his team to draft a letter and petition to send directly to UA administrators, the UA System, the UA Division of Strategic Communications and Alabama Governor Kay Ivey.

After several Zoom meetings, GroupMe discussions and drafts of the proposal, Badger made the document live on March 27. The petition has four main tasks, with provisions and conditions tagged onto each one. 

The UA Emergency Action Network is asking for the University to appropriately refund prepaid services that have been disrupted; to enact proper emergency safety measures; maintain responsibility for all its workers, as well as student employees, while also pressuring contracted companies to follow in the standards set below (which includes items like healthcare and paid leave) and to implement equity accommodations, which includes a Triple-A grading system and the continuation of Office of Disability Services for online education. 

Through this grading system, students would receive either an A, A- or A+ in each of their respective classes. While other options, such as a pass/fail system, were discussed by the Network, the Triple-A system was agreed upon to be the best option going forward. A few hours after the letter was sent, UA announced that it would be offering pass/fail options to undergraduate students on a course-by-course basis. 

“We’re glad to see UA change its grading system to be more equitable, but we still prefer the AAA grading system as a way to be equitable and still leave room for some GPA difference,” Badger said. “But, this is definitely an appreciated step in the right direction, and none of us are particularly upset with this move.”

The Emergency Action Network sought out a handful of diverse campus groups to stand with them and sign the petition. So far, the the petition has received signatures from the following groups: University of Alabama College Democrats, University of Alabama Generation Action, March for Our Lives University of Alabama, New College Council, Sigma Gamma Epsilon Alpha Phi Chapter, University of Alabama Student Alumni Ambassadors, The Student Civil Justice Coalition, University of Alabama Students for a National Health Program, Student Writers Guild, University of Alabama Turning Point USA, University of Alabama for Bernie Sanders, Unite for Gender and Reproductive Equity University of Alabama, Vegan Voices, University of Alabama Young Americans for Liberty and the University of Alabama Young Democratic Socialists of America.

“We will continue to operate for as long as the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn last, and we will continue to reach out to the University until the needs of the community as stated in our letter are met,” Badger said. 

By the time of publication, the petition had 79 signatures.

This is a developing story. The Crimson White will continue to provide updates regarding this letter and petition as they become available.