COVID policy clarity: no warnings before write-ups

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Photo by Lauren Hill

As of Sep. 27, 1,399 COVID-19 tests have been performed on University of Dallas students, administrators and staff, revealing a total of eight cases, five of which have already recovered. These statistics appear to be low when compared to many colleges and universities around the country, some of which have already moved back into online classes.

But rather than relax coronavirus precautions, the UD administration is urging students now more than ever to respect the terms of the Groundhog Pledge, at risk of fines, probation and even suspension.

In a recent email to undergraduates, Director of Student Affairs Seth Oldham outlined policy violations and the corresponding disciplinary actions, which were previously contained in the handbook yet not posted with the coronavirus information on the UD website.

“At this point in the semester, most students have been reminded at least once of the COVID-19 regulations. We are now a full month into students living back on campus and the time of a verbal reminder from residence life staff, including [resident assistants,] RAs, has come and gone,” said Oldham in an email on Sep. 15. In effect, this means that RAs will document student violations without first giving a warning.  

According to the UD COVID-19 information page, one documentation causes an official warning that remains on a student’s record. Two documentations means a $100 fine. Three documentations put a student on student affairs probation and four documentations can suspend and remove a student from campus while still having to pay housing fees.

Students Charlie Atkins, a sophomore politics major, and Fiona Williams, a sophomore education major, said that they did not know anything about these punishments.

“I knew there was a $100 fine, but I didn’t know that it was after a second violation, and I’d be interested in what qualifies for a violation and how badly do you have to be breaking the rules,” said Atkins.

“I think they [the punishments] are a bit harsh considering that there’s no more verbal warnings, which I hadn’t known about until I talked to you because some of the write-ups that I’ve heard about are misunderstandings. Some people had just been drinking or eating and had just been caught at the moment,” Williams said.

Sophomore psychology major Caleb Clayton said that he experienced just that. Clayton said he had been walking into his dorm with his hands full and his mask had fallen off his face and, because his hands were full, Clayton was not able to put it back on instantly. According to Clayton, his resident coordinator spotted him and documented the situation. Clayton contested the situation and said,

“I received a passive-aggressive reminder of the rules after contesting and I don’t think things like this fosters the character that UD promotes with having all of the facts and giving the situation the thought it deserves,” said Clayton.

Both Atkins and Clayton thought that the $100 fine was too large for a second offense. 

“I’d say the fine is a little high,” said Atkins. 

Clayton added, “I think it’s somewhat odd when driving your car on the mall is a $40 fine,” which is outlined on the UD website. 

Oldham responded that “[t]he rubric was formed in concert with the COVID-19 Implementation Team and the Provost Office. The university continues to evaluate all aspects of our response to the pandemic, including enforcement. As with so many things during the pandemic, it is fluid and could change at any time.”

Atkins said that he thinks the policies should be laid out more clearly for students to follow. 

“It might actually encourage more rule-following if the students knew what punishments they would be facing if they violated the rules,” said Atkins.

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