Colleges nationwide ask students to snitch on their friends for 'COVID non-compliance'
Colleges and universities around the country have implemented strict safety measures, even asking students to report peers who do not follow their coronavirus guidelines.
Some schools are threatening expulsion for students who do not follow their coronavirus policies.
As students around the country gear up for classes, fears of coronavirus outbreaks continue to plague college administrations, leading them to set up significant COVID safety measures. Schools are asking students to maintain social distancing at all times, implementing mandatory mask rules, and some schools are now asking students to report their peers if they see them violating university policies related to coronavirus or those they may suspect have the coronavirus.
Campus Reform took a look at how some schools are using students as one way to catch those not following coronavirus guidelines:
Binghamton University is one of the schools prompting students to inform the administration of peer non-compliance to health and safety measures.
The school’s website contains a coronavirus non-compliance form which is for "members of the Binghamton University" who want to submit a report "about a community member who does not follow the expectations outlined by the University."
The university form asks community members to provide perpetrators' contact information and details of the incident, including what type of violation occurred, such as “Social distancing directives, limitations on the number of people in gatherings, wearing a face covering wherever required adhering to quarantine/isolation requirements, compliance with our no-guest policy,” per the school’s website.
The form also gives students the option to remain fully anonymous in reporting the incident.
“Reports against students will be sent to the Office of Student Conduct,” the form reads. “You may submit anonymously, and in this case we will not be able to follow up with you. Anonymous reports may limit the extent to which the University is able to investigate and/or address the complaint. In this case please give as much detailed information as possible as we cannot follow up with you.”
University of Virginia
UVA’s emergency management portal contains information on COVID-19 compliance, including a section dedicated to “minor and infrequent non-compliance," which it defines as "unintentional or accidental" in which they do not encourage student reporting.
However, this is followed by “significant or repetitive non-compliance” to mandatory COVID rules, for which the school has set up a "formal reporting platform" for students to access to report others who commit "intentional or reckless violations of University COVID-19 related public health measures, policies, and guidelines."
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
After outlining a long set of policies for students to abide by, MIT set up a “COVID-19 Public Health Concern Report,” allowing students to report COVID violations and peers they suspect may be infected.
“This report form is intended for Institute community members to share concerns about students not following expectations,” the form reads, allowing students to leave anonymous tips via a hotline.
The form requests that students list the names and contact information of those they are reporting, along with their student ID numbers. It then asks students to specify the issue (masks, social gatherings, parties etc.).
On July 6, Tulane University issued a letter, after students were allegedly found holding large gatherings, violating social distancing and not wearing masks, referring to them as "selfish" and "shameful" and threatened to expel students who continued to engage in group gatherings of more than 15 people.
“The calculation is simple - If you want to have a residential experience at Tulane in the fall, you have to behave differently. This means, no large gatherings (+15 people), and at all times wearing masks in public spaces, practicing social distancing and washing your hands,” the school said. “DO NOT HOST PARTIES OR GATHERINGS WITH MORE THAN 15 PEOPLE, INCLUDING THE HOST. IF YOU DO, YOU WILL FACE SUSPENSION OR EXPULSION FROM THE UNIVERSITY.”
Tulane then informed students of a portal to which they can report any violations they witness among their peers, urging them to hold one another accountable.
“Hold your friends and peers accountable and reach out when you need help with that. You can report problematic behavior by using our online report system,” the letter read, providing a link to a campus reporting form for students to inform the school of a violation of coronavirus procedures.
Columbia University has implemented a student ambassador program, training them in “COVID-19 prevention and bystander intervention methods” for the school's new coronavirus health compact. The agreement mandates masks at all times on campus, using a symptom tracker app to self-monitor, and agreement to be subject to random testing.
Cornell University has also implemented a student ambassador program in response to COVID-19 safety precautions.
According to its website, the students will be tasked with "encouraging" compliance to the school’s behavioral compact, and requiring they “intervene in the planning of events or activities that pose significant risk of COVID-19 transmission in order to prevent those events or substantially reduce their risks.”
Other goals include asking ambassadors to “be peer advocates for setting positive norms and behaviors related to COVID-19 risk reduction” and “replace in-person events, parties and social gatherings with new virtual events, activities.”
More universities that allow students to report their peers can be found below.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are aware of similar reporting systems at other universities that are not on this list.
Senior Counsel and Director of the Center for Academic Freedom at Alliance Defending Freedom Tyson Langhofer told Campus Reform that these reporting portals could be weaponized against students who have differing political views.
“Government officials have the authority to protect health and public safety, and we are hopeful that these safety precautions will be applied evenhandedly as schools reopen,” Langhofer said in an email to Campus Reform, adding that these portals could be abused to harass students.
“However, the First Amendment—including the freedom of speech—is never suspended, not even in times of crisis. University policies that encourage students to report violations run the risk of encouraging students to report other students simply because they disagree with the students’ point of view. Today’s college students are our future legislators, judges, and voters. That’s why it’s so important that public universities model the First Amendment values they’re supposed to be teaching students, rather than enacting policies that regulate every aspect of students’ lives," Langhofer said.
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