It is a unique year for students at William Jewell College. Along with those policies detailed in the student handbook, students must now abide by new policies in order to mitigate the risk presented by COVID-19. These policies are detailed in the Operation Safe Campus guidelines.
The COVID-19 policy consists of two core features. First, masks must be worn at all times on campus except when students are alone or with their roommate in their own dorm rooms. Second, gatherings must be limited so that proper social distancing can be practiced. There are other elements to the COVID policy, as well, like the prohibition of off-campus guests from residence halls and expectations to maintain sanitary practices – though there have been no reported violations of these policies as of yet. As students enter into the second half of the semester, the first few student violations of the COVID-19 policy have now been adjudicated by the Standard of Conduct Review Board (SOCRB).
While all Jewell staff members do their part to enforce these policies, the on-the-ground nature of Resident Assistants’ (RA) job responsibilities means they are assigned the brunt of the responsibility of enforcement.
Semple Hall RA Archer Wright, sophomore Oxbridge institutions & policy major, shared that he often observes mild violations of the mask rules and, in response, makes sure to emphasize the vitality of wearing a mask, even if the student is just popping into the bathroom.
“The most frequently broken of these rules is the mask requirement,” Wright said. “Many times students will not think to put on their mask while walking to the bathroom or walking to their friend’s room, but we try and make it clear that even in these short bursts of being out in the open that it is extremely important to wear your masks.”
However, if RAs find themselves giving multiple warnings to the same students or find a student committing a more serious COVID-19 violation – like hosting a large gathering where social distancing isn’t practiced and masks aren’t worn – they must submit an institutional incident report. Following the report, Ernie Stufflebean, director of residence life and assistant dean of student life, meets with the student individually to explain the Standard of Conduct Review Board process and to complete paperwork.
Stufflebean shared that, since the beginning of the school year, a total of three individual students have been referred to the Board, while multiple student gatherings were reported.
“To date, a total of three individual students have been referred and there have been two incidents involving, ‘room parties,’ with multiple students gathering in a residential room with alcohol, not wearing facial coverings or maintaining social distance. We continuously reinforce our attention to Operation Safe Campus with staff due to the significant implications for the health and safety of our campus community,” Stufflebean said.
Outcomes from milder infractions have ranged from community service to disciplinary probation. For more dangerous infractions, including large unmasked student gatherings, Stufflebean shared that SOCRB outcomes included a research paper on COVID-19 and the College’s Operation Safe Campus plan, community service, creating a public service announcement promoting COVID-19 precautions, disciplinary probation and a two-week partial suspension. The duration of the partial suspension was intended to represent the amount of time one is required to quarantine if exposed to COVID-19.
Though some students have wondered if COVID-19 violations or the intensity with which RAs and campus safety have been enforcing the policy have recently increased, Stufflebean remarked that there have neither been an uptick in violations nor an increased emphasis on COVID-19 policy enforcement since the beginning of the school year.
All COVID-19 violations thus far have been responded to by residence life staff. COVID-19 violations can also be reported to campus safety, though Landon Jones, director of campus safety, shared that campus safety has not received many reports.
“Very few violations have been reported directly to Campus Safety Officers and there hasn’t been a recent uptick in COVID-19 related policy violations reported to Campus Safety officers,” Jones said.