Salisbury University implemented new COVID-19 policies in response to the omicron variant and many students do not care. Who is ensuring our safety if not staffers, many of whom ignore non-compliance?
The booster still has lower vaccine efficacy in recipients who are immunocompromised compared to those who are not, excluding those who can safely vaccinate without compromising their health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It is crucial new policies are enforced to protect immunocompromised students, faculty and staff.
It is also addressing racism. Black, Indigenous, Pacific Islander and Latino Americans are among the communities most affected by COVID-19, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. As a predominantly white institution, SU has a population of 69.6% white students, faculty and staff, with the previously mentioned groups representing 19.5% of the campus community, according to Data USA.
SU has a history of racism and anti-blackness similar to those of many predominantly white institutions. On top of the ableism demonstrated daily in COVID-19 non-compliance, there exists the preconceived notion that people of color do not matter.
It is important the university cares for its minority groups. Failing to enforce COVID-19 policies communicates a lack of caring about SU's students, faculty and staff.
“Students, faculty, staff and visitors are required to wear KN95 or KF94 face masks in all SU classrooms and instructional settings,” according to SU’s website.
The newly-implemented policies include required vaccination with a booster or twice-weekly testing, requiring campus visitors to show proof of clearance or in-person screening and daily screening for those not fully vaccinated.
It is the responsibility of all students, faculty and staff to uphold these measures. I personally do not trust SU's students to be protective of one another, especially from the perspective of a student with a compromised immune system.
There are students who wear masks beneath their noses, who resist compliance and do not wear masks at all until entering a classroom. The same students going to bars, parties and concerts. For those not immunocompromised, life can go on. Although less likely to die from COVID-19, those not immunocompromised are still likely to experience its detrimental effects such as "Long Covid," according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Occasional mistakes and inadvertent non-compliance may happen from time to time. In those instances, the student is expected to abide by any reasonable request to observe the requirements,” according to the university’s Interim Addendum to Code of Community Standards. Procedures following non-compliance include:
- Asking the student to comply with COVID-19 policy.
- Asking the student to leave the classroom or other property if they refuse compliance.
- Bringing in officials to ask the student to leave following further refusal.
- Contacting university police if even further refusal occurs.
In the case of more serious non-compliance, sanctions including immediate removal from campus housing, suspension or dismissal from the university may be implemented, according to SU’s Course Related Policies and Resources Information page.
These students are still on campus. While students have free will, they are repeatedly choosing to put human lives at risk. Many of SU's students do not care about increasing the spread of COVID-19, despite local hospitals being overcrowded, and this is evident through their actions.
Solutions that could enforce COVID-19 policies and ensure safety of everyone would include in-depth equity training for all campus community members and more information on how COVID-19 effects both students with disabilities and students of color.
A student-required forum with those most affected could give SU a much-needed image of those negatively impacted. Although the uncourteous behaviors of staff and students are far more deeply rooted than just COVID-19, it is important that everyone is empathetic and understanding.
Those who do not care for peers at risk of dying from the virus should not be excused for non-compliance. It is not a "mistake" to risk the lives of others.
By SUMMER SMITH
Featured image courtesy of Jennet Daniel.