Elizabeth With, senior vice president for Student Affairs, attended Wednesday’s Student Government Association senate meeting as a guest speaker to discuss the extended deadline for mandatory COVID-19 testing, as well as classroom infection policies.
President Neal Smatresk announced on Sept. 8 that the university’s mandatory testing program has been extended to Sept. 20, with no additional grace period provided after.
With told SGA that the mandatory testing program was extended due to the low numbers of campus COVID-19 testing and vaccinations cards being uploaded. Conversely, in Smatresk’s press release, the university president said a “high percentage” of faculty, staff and students have uploaded the required information.
The senate was also told that there will be consequences if a student does not take or report the mandatory COVID-19 test.
“We’re prepared to take disciplinary actions […] on those who choose not to satisfy the requirement,” With said.
Around 14,000 of the 42,000 students have completed the mandatory testing requirements. This includes students who have either uploaded a COVID-19 test, opted out and uploaded their vaccination cards or have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 90 days.
According to the aforementioned announcement, the extension will allow more time for tests and proof of vaccination records to be uploaded. A student who does not upload their test results in time may be considered a student “not in good standing.”
Senators asked With for more clarification on the consequences of students, faculty and staff not submitting mandatory tests.
“[There will be] a written warning on a student’s file,” With said. “That itself will not trigger someone being suspended or expelled from the institution.”
With also said the university is willing to pursue a harsher consequence if a student has multiple, similar violations related to not getting tested
Andy McDowall, senator for the College of Engineering, asked how many of the approximately 28,000 remaining students have been exempted from the mandatory testing program. With was unable to answer.
Other issues senators brought up to With included the concern of how the university handles students or faculty testing positive for COVID-19.
Maria Velasco, senator of College of Education, said university administration did not allow her professor to teach their class remotely even after a student tested positive.
“No classes need to go to remote status because somebody tested positive in the classroom,” With said.
SGA President Devon Skinner asked if a professor has the right to ask a student to leave the classroom if the student shows up with COVID-19 symptoms.
“No, class is a property right,” With said. “[The student] has the right to be there.”
On the university’s Health Alerts website, the message “Please do not come to campus if you are feeling ill or have a fever” can be seen in bold.
McDowall asked how the university will ensure a student in quarantine gets proper access to their course work. With said it is up to professors to address the situation and communicate with the student. The university expects professors to come to a functioning resolution.
“[Professors] knew going into this [semester] exactly how we were going to handle it,” With said. “And so they should have mechanisms in place to be able to tell students what they need to be doing if they have to quarantine or isolate.”
Featured Image: Senators both in person and over Zoom wait for the SGA meeting to begin on Sept. 1, 2021. Photo by Jami Hitchcock