COVID-19 Spread and Non-Compliance Consequences
Nov. 2, 2020
Dear Billiken Companions,
I am sorry to say that, in spite of Dr. Lewis’s and my message on Friday, which addressed rising COVID-19 infections among students, some students opted to host or attend large, off-campus parties over the weekend. Others opted to continue to hold gatherings in their on-campus residences that exceeded occupancy restrictions or violated public health safeguards (like mask-wearing at all times).
While so many Billikens are abiding by our safeguards, I can tell you others are putting our community members at risk.
With the end of the semester quickly approaching and the election upon us, I am sure the last communication you wanted was another COVID-19 message. Believe me, I wish it wasn't necessary. Every choice we make to wear a mask, limit gatherings (including in-person election watch events), etc. is critical as we close out this semester.
The rise in student COVID-19 cases mentioned on Friday, and sparked by recent travel, off-campus parties, and other high-risk activities (like lingering without masks after meals are completed and riding in cars without masks), have led to our highest numbers yet for isolation and quarantine. Indeed, we are on the cusp of needing to activate our overflow quarantine building for the first time this semester.
Below this email, I am sharing information about what I’m hearing from students, what you can do right now to reduce COVID-19 spread among your peers, and what kinds of consequences groups and individuals are facing if we continue to see increasing cases and decreasing compliance with public health safeguards.
I believe most Billikens want to do –– and are doing –– the right things. But I also know that a viral pandemic means even a relatively small number of students engaging in risky behaviors absolutely puts others at risk. On a campus where Billikens regularly voice concern for those at greatest risk among our campus community, this is particularly disheartening.
Please, please do your part to keep our community safe. We are so very close to the finish line.
Debra Rudder Lohe, Ph.D. (sher/her/hers)
Interim Vice President for Student Development
What are we hearing from students?
Believe it or not, we hear from students all the time, about how things are going. Here are just some of the things you or your peers have shared in the last ten days or so:
- You’re being vigilant, but your roommate/suitemate/partner isn’t, and now, you’re in quarantine through no fault of your own.
- You’re being vigilant, but you are watching social media feeds showing that a subset of your peers are not fulfilling their Campus Commitment. Some of you are sharing the details through the Incident Report Form (which may be done anonymously for those who prefer) –– thank you.
- You are sick of the pandemic and just want to connect, in person and up close.
- You’re lonely and sick of being alone and/or hiding your face behind a mask, and you can’t take it anymore.
- You aren’t too worried about COVID-19 because all the people you know who’ve had it just had mild symptoms, and you don’t care if you get it.
- You want us to take a more stringent approach to consequences for the students who flagrantly disregard the public health safeguards.
What can you do to reduce COVID-19 infections in our community?
By now, you know the drill. There are a number of key public health safeguards you’ve committed to in the Campus Commitment. Here are the most important things you can prioritize every single day that will most help to reduce COVID-19 spread:
- Wear a mask. Wear a mask. Wear a mask . . .
- Immediately after eating a meal, no matter how long you continue to socialize afterward with your friends.
- Any time you are in your room/apartment with anyone who is not your roommate.
- Any time you are in someone else’s room/apartment.
- Any time you are indoors unless you are actively eating or in your room/apartment with your roommate.
- Any time you are outdoors with others and cannot be guaranteed at least 6 feet of physical distance between you and them.
- Any time you are riding in a car with others. (And roll those windows down.)
- Spread out and reduce occupancy in indoor spaces . . .
- Maintain physical distance of 6 feet or more from others.
- Limit the number of people in an elevator and stand as far apart as possible.
- Abide by posted COVID-19 occupancies.
- When eating with others, spread out at least 6 feet - even when you are eating outside.
- Avoid eating in restaurants where you’re seated close together with others.
- Spread out in Grand Dining Hall. Seriously. Don’t sit 4 to a table that should only have 2 people there.
- If you attended or hosted a large gathering last weekend, double down on these safeguards to
ensure you aren’t unwittingly spreading infection to others:
- Wear your mask.
- Spread out.
- Monitor your health and report any COVID-19 symptoms to Student Health Center and record them in the #CampusClear app. Do not assume you just have allergies or a fall cold.
What are the potential consequences of continued non-compliance with campus safeguards?
So far, non-compliance has resulted in a number of sanctions, including termination of housing contracts and suspension from the University. As we head into the final weeks of the semester, I want be sure you know that the following consequences (including others) are on the table:
- Suspension from the University. With so little time remaining this semester, individuals who incur a suspension outcome likely will be suspended for the spring 2021 semester. This means academic progress is on the line, as is the ability to return to campus next semester. In particularly egregious cases, students can receive an immediate interim suspension until a full investigation and conduct process can be completed.
- Suspension of an organization and its activities. If we continue to see COVID-19 infections in larger social gatherings among individuals who share a common organizational membership, the organization - not just the individuals involved - risk suspension of group activities. Such suspensions likely will be in place at least for the full spring 2021 semester and would include official organizational business, virtual meetings, fundraising, and any other activity of the organization.
- Termination of on-campus housing contracts. On-campus students who consistently or egregiously violate Community Standards and public health safeguards risk a housing contract termination for the spring semester. Such terminations are not eligible for room and board refunds. A note for students living off-campus: local health department officials also receive notice of large parties where COVID-19 infections are confirmed. Often, these can lead to official action from landlords, which could include termination of a student’s lease in an off-campus apartment.
- Serious health consequences for loved ones. As we prepare to depart campus for Thanksgiving, any actions you take that increase your risk for contracting COVID-19 make you more likely to carry the disease home with you. Please think about the loved ones you hope to visit later this month and do everything in your power to keep them safe.