Two University of North Georgia lecturers resigned last week over shared concerns about teaching in the classroom without mask mandates and other COVID-19 mitigation.
“I feel that with COVID surging and us being asked to teach our courses face-to-face with potentially unmasked and unvaccinated students that, in my case, I think they are asking me to choose between my job and the health of myself and my family,” said Lorraine Buchbinder, who said she and fellow history lecturer, Cornelia Lambert, left over similar concerns.
UNG and Brenau University both had their first day of classes Monday, Aug. 23.
Lambert sent a tweet on Friday, Aug. 20, announcing she had quit, claiming the Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia “insists on sending professors into the classroom without mask mandates, appropriate social distancing or vaccine mandates.”
Lambert declined to comment when reached by The Times.
UNG spokeswoman Sylvia Carson said masks and vaccinations were “strongly encouraged, but not mandated.”
“However, face coverings may still be required in certain settings, such as on university buses and in clinical education or healthcare settings that require close contact,” Carson wrote in an email. “Professors cannot require students to wear masks in their classrooms outside of those clinical spaces noted.”
As the school has done in the past, Carson said UNG will continue holding vaccine clinics through the fall semester.
When asked about Lambert’s resignation, Carson said other faculty members have filled in so “student instruction will not be disrupted.”
Carson said the university has not learned of any other resignations outside of Buchbinder and Lambert.
Buchbinder, who is in her 60s, has effectively retired after teaching in the Gainesville community for roughly 20 years. Not making the decision lightly, she said she loved her job and her students but had concerns about teaching in close quarters.
Buchbinder said she taught five classes with 32 students each and felt it was not safe.
“I really don’t understand how parents feel comfortable letting their children go to school this way,” she said. “There are breakthrough COVID cases, and many of the kids in the age group that we teach are not vaccinated.”
Buchbinder said she resigned on Friday after “hoping against hope that the Board of Regents and USG would allow us once again to teach online” as they did last year until the surge was contained.
There were 21 COVID cases for students and employees related to the Gainesville campus reported between Friday, Aug. 20, and Sunday, Aug. 22. There were also 27 cases reported during the same time span for the Dahlonega campus.
Brenau Vice President of External Relations Matt Thomas said they are adding confirmed COVID cases to a Google spreadsheet as they learn of them.
The last listed cases were reported Aug. 13, and there have been seven COVID reports since Aug. 1 related to the Gainesville campus.
Thomas said the school is not mandating vaccines, but both the vaccinated and unvaccinated “must wear a mask in all indoor facilities at any of Brenau’s campus locations.”