MIZ COVID-Diaries: Mun Choi and Administration

We’re entering week 4 here at Mizzou, almost a quarter of the way done with the semester. So far, I’ve gone to one of my in-person classes (just once), quarantined for two weeks, found out I never even got Coronavirus from three different exposures and hallucinated that my cat was in my trash closet.

So it’s been hectic. But I’d like to tell you more about how the COVID-19 pandemic is being handled at an SEC school from a personal standpoint. This is Mizzou — we’re in Missouri. It’s already a red state, being occasionally challenged by godsends like Cori Bush. But other than that, the state is filled with people like our governor, Mike Parson, who thinks college students will be fine because, ya know, they aren’t going to hospitals. Our Chancellor happens to agree.

Mun Choi, the UM System President and University of Missouri Chancellor said recently in an article by the Kansas City Star Editorial Board, “Students and young people in that age group do recover at a very high rate,” referring to people aged 18-22. That might explain why he and the rest of the Mizzou administration are so hot on bumping up the “recovered” numbers on our COVID-19 dashboard literally as fast as possible.

I know I’m jumping around a lot here, but let’s just run through a few of Choi’s top hits so far as Chancellor (many of these are general administration actions but would most likely require his approval):

  • was initially instated as interim chancellor while administration looked for a new permanent replacement, then established himself chancellor
  • refused to remove Thomas Jefferson statue that students and faculty openly expressed disliking towards and started a petition against, even after presenting evidence of TJ’s racist history and extremely minor connection to the University (seriously … there’s like no reason for that statue to be here)
  • brought Mizzou students back to campus during a global pandemic and did not lower tuition
  • approved a Mizzou COVID-19 dashboard that would update “every two days”
  • excluded COVID-positive students that went back home to quarantine from the “Active Student Cases” number
  • blocked students who were criticizing him on Twitter
  • unblocked them when threatened with a lawsuit

The thing is, I’ve been sitting here for so long hating Mun Choi and acting like what he’s doing affects me at all … when it doesn’t. It affects Black students, minority students, low-income students and high-risk students so much more. Big politicians and billionaires are not very personal problems. They affect everyone in the universe. Mun Choi is close to home, though. While I’ve had all these beliefs before, I think these Mizzou-specific issues are reminding me, and others of so much privilege, why it is so important that we raise the voices of our fellow students and citizens because we actually see Mun Choi’s impact every day.

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COVID-19 has not been handled well so far here in Columbia on an administrative front. A friend of mine is involved in the Missouri Students Association, Mizzou’s student government, and often gives me the low-down on how admin has f*cked up each week. Usually, they claim case investigators and contact tracers are completely caught up, but one of my roommates literally never got called by a case investigator once they tested positive (and yes, they reported the positive case). I was called twice by two different contact tracers more than a week and a half after my initial exposure and one of them told me to get tested a third time because I was still negative, while the other told me to just wait out the rest of the quarantine.

I’m sure it’s difficult to be managing a school of tens of thousands of students, but the lack of consideration for students’ well-being is really astounding. My dad has worked at a midwestern university for almost my entire life, so sometimes I can see it both ways when students are upset about the way administration has handled something. But this I just can’t understand.

After my three roommates tested positive, I knew I had to get tested again. So, a few days later, I drove to the testing site only to get turned away and was told to call a number to get a referral. When I called that number, I was told I couldn’t get one because I had already been tested and then was transferred to a different number. This person told me I had to have a Telehealth appointment the next day with a doctor in order to get a referral for a test. If I didn’t have insurance, that appointment would have cost up to $59.

This is not only Mizzou though. Pretty much every college across the country is struggling with spikes because of some combination of lack of testing, transparency, leadership and responsibility. And we can’t put all the blame on Mizzou when our governmental leadership looks like … well, what it looks like.

We’re just looking for some transparency, and quite honestly, some decency, Choi. Is 1,300 cases not enough?

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