An analysis of UGA’s statements regarding COVID-19 and racism

By Abir Raza 

The University of Georgia has found itself in hot fire for the past few months. It is no secret that 2020 has been a challenging year with the spread of COVID-19 impacting almost every facet of our normal lives. The summer brought even more difficulty as police brutality sparked outrage across the country, bringing the Black Lives Matter movement to the forefront.

With these powerful and impactful events came PR statements from just about every business and organization, UGA included. Everyone was putting out statements claiming to do better and handle these situations with integrity, but many truths also came from these events. UGA students began sharing their stories and instances of racism on campus and in Greek life, and of the realities of being a student on campus during COVID-19.

Students initially began sharing their stories because of lack of accountability from the university. UGA made lackluster statements about combating racism on campus, but stayed silent when students pointed out that many buildings on campus are named after racists, slave owners or segregationists. Even UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication is named after a white supremacist. UGA failed to simply acknowledge this, much less listen to students’ demands that these buildings be renamed.

The university has also had many instances of leniency when it came to punishing Greek organizations that promote racism. Thus, students created social media accounts to recount racism they had faced in Greek life. The aim was to abolish Greek life from UGA’s campus, but there was no statement from UGA.

When looking at how UGA handled COVID-19, there are many discrepancies. UGA claimed that students who tested positive on campus would be given university sanctioned housing to quarantine, but students often found themselves in dirty, unsanitary rooms. Many did not get food on time, as promised, or were given meals they did not order. 

The problem is simple: UGA’s PR statements were inauthentic and ingenuine. They were statements that initially made people happy, but had little to no follow through. The university fell short in making students feel supported and safe on campus, which they said they would. Crisis control statements only do so much; there has to be action behind words and a rally for bettering the situation. 

The handling of these issues could have been better with acknowledging the issues, being accountable and taking the steps towards real change. That is all students wanted – to see UGA accept the responsibility and recognize that many things can be handled differently. The truth always comes out, and it has only gotten messier for the university to clean up. 

UGA’s public relations department is a top 5 nationally ranked program, so it is interesting to see the university struggle so much with their own PR.