‘Die-in’ protest organized to draw attention to COVID-19 case count

Sam Harper, senior in psychology and political science, lays on the ground in Bosco Plaza Monday to protest Kansas State's response to COVID-19 on campus. (Bailey Britton | Collegian Media Group)

Seven students lay on the ground in Bosco Plaza on Monday evening. They laid there for 26 minutes and 15 seconds — one second for every positive COVID-19 case in Riley County as of Sept. 18. The number of positive cases is currently 1,643.

Marley Kay Lowe, senior in communication studies, American ethnic studies and gender, women and sexuality studies, organized this die-in protest to raise awareness of the effect of COVID-19 on Kansas State and the Manhattan community.

“We wanted to do this because we were inspired by an Oregon school … and then also with KU — they did the protests a few weeks ago,” Lowe said. “So as students, we felt as though there was a call to action.”

Sam Harper, senior in psychology and political science, helped Lowe organize the protest and said K-State — and other universities across the country — have avoided taking responsibility for their actions.

Lowe listed four demands of administration: a 20 percent COVID-19 positivity threshold for classes to revert to online learning, mandatory implementation of a digital Lafene Health Center screening, limiting in-person classes to once a week and universal COVID-19 testing for all students, faculty and staff.

Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Life Thomas Lane met the protestors shortly before the event began and said the university hopes to expand asymptomatic testing to anyone who wants it. He said an announcement can be expected next week.

While the protest only had seven attendees, Lowe said she wasn’t disappointed.

“It was an underground, so we didn’t want a lot of publicity which stifles outreach,” Lowe said. “I’m not mad about it being small just because if it is small, that means that there’s less likely to add to the thing that we’re protesting against.”

Lowe handed out zines to people around campus throughout the day. Park management and conservation graduate students Cait Henry and Julianna Rogowski attended the protest after learning about the protest through the zines.

“It’s shocking how the university has mishandled a serious problem,” Rogowski said.

Clayton Bryant, senior in computer science, agreed that the way the university has handled the pandemic is not right.

“The way classes are being handled isn’t the safest they can be,” Bryant said. “Cases keep going up and people aren’t taking it as seriously as I feel like they should be.”

Bryant said people think of the case count as just a number. By putting the number in a different format, it can impact people more.

Lowe said she would email the list of demands to the Office of Student Life and the Office of the President following the protest.

Henry said she is glad people stopped to read the signs while they laid on the groud.

“I think it went fairly well,” Henry said. “I mean, we had people who were actually stopping and reading and some people were agreeing with it so there wasn’t any animosity which is, I guess, the best thing.”

My name is Bailey Britton and I am the former editor-in-chief of the Collegian. Previously, I have been the assistant news editor and the managing editor. I have also interned for the Manhattan Mercury and the Colby Free Press. I grew up in Colby, Kansas, and I am a junior in journalism and English. Through the Collegian, I aim to provide the K-State community with quality news coverage while we learn to serve our campus.