Last week, several undergraduate students at the University of Dallas received emails from the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) about possible violations of policies outlined in the Groundhog Pledge. The Groundhog Pledge is a written agreement for all UD community members to practice social distancing, to wear a mask, to avoid large gatherings and to take other basic precautions in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Although each of the emails received by students differed in wording, they were all reports of the receiver’s intention to not abide by the university’s guidelines for preventing the spread of illness.
Michael Jurkoic, a senior computer science major, received an email on the afternoon of Wednesday, Aug. 19 from Director of Student Affairs Seth Oldham informing him of an anonymous report. According to Jurkoic, the exact text of the report stated that he had been seen with his girlfriend “numerous times and in numerous spots on campus not wearing a mask, not social distancing, not sanitizing their hands, and protesting COVID-19.”
Jurkoic said that he is unsure what “protesting COVID-19” means and got the “impression that someone was either trolling or abusing the system to take out a grudge.”
In response to this email, Jurkoic met virtually with Oldham, who explained that several vague and anonymous reports had been filed through the care report system. The care report system is an initiative of the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) which typically is used to anonymously report concern for the health or safety of a roommate, classmate or friend. According to Jurkoic, Oldham said that the option to report violations of COVID-19 precautions via the care report has since been shut down.
Oldham could not comment on the reports due to their confidential nature. However, when asked about plans for enforcement, prevention and disciplinary actions regarding COVID-19 health precautions, he said the OSA “should be publicizing more details concerning enforcement sometime soon.”
Another senior computer science major, Anthony Hanson, received an email on Friday, Aug. 21 about the potential COVID-19 violation of attending a party. Hanson said his reaction was a “combination of annoyance that someone would think I would be so irresponsible and some amusement at the idea that someone thought I am a partier.”
Hanson informed The University News that he had planned to spend his night doing homework in his apartment. However, Hanson has heard of some parties in an apartment near his own. “In at least one incident, [Hanson’s friend] said that there were around 10 people on the porch alone with no masks.” In addition, Hanson has “heard of the existence of other parties but without any details.”
Senior psychology major Samuel Regnerus was also reported for potential violations of COVID-19 policies. On the morning of Friday, Aug. 21, Regnerus received an email from the OSA that read: “You are receiving this email because you were named in an anonymous report involving a possible COVID-19 violation. According to the report, you may be present at a party off campus this evening where ‘No plans for mask-wearing or social distancing’ exist.”
“I’d been invited to nothing that night, but even if I had I would not have gone, given the restrictions and my own personal concerns about catching COVID-19,” Regnerus said. Additionally, because his workday starts at 6:30 a.m., Regnerus said that “Even if I wanted to party, I don’t have the energy.”
After responding to this email with the assurance that he had no plans of attending a party that night, Regnerus said “I was told in response that this was not a conduct-related matter, but rather about some future action.”
In addition to Jurkoic and Regnerus, Gwendolyn Loop and Patrick Vasal, both seniors, received emails stating they had been named in anonymous reports about planning to attend or host parties. All of the aforementioned students have expressed that these accusations were unfounded and that they are striving to prevent contracting and spreading the coronavirus.