Classes hadn’t even begun when The Ohio State University moved to temporarily suspend hundreds of students the school claimed had broken policies meant to deter the spread of the coronavirus.
As CNN reported, students returned to campus as early as August 19. OSU sent a message informing them of the school’s coronavirus guidelines, such as wearing a mask, keeping at least six feet apart (social distancing), and limiting gatherings to 10 or fewer people. Students were also warned by Vice President of Student Life Melissa S. Shivers that the university was already opening investigations into student gatherings that would likely result in suspensions. Student organizations were warned they could lose recognition and funding if they held gatherings that violated the school’s coronavirus guidelines.
“Perhaps knowing about the action we are taking will influence your decisions and prompt you to encourage others to take this situation seriously,” Shivers wrote in the letter, which was sent on August 21. “And remember that this is all about more than the individual. We have one shot at this — responding to what so many of you asked for: an on campus semester at Ohio State.”
OSU spokesman Benjamin Johnson told CNN that the Office of Student Life would be monitoring off-campus neighborhoods and reporting students whom it believes may have broken the school’s coronavirus guidelines.
Other universities are also suspending students for violating school policies regarding COVID-19.
At Virginia Tech, seven students were suspended for apparently violating the school’s rules. School spokesman Mark Owczarski told WSLS that the school takes “these situations quite seriously.”
“There have been select instances where large gatherings of students without masks, without social distancing and things like that have occurred,” he said. “And that is in violation of our Code of Student Conduct.”
Montclair University in New Jersey reportedly suspended 11 students for violating its coronavirus policies. The university sent a text to students, obtained by New Jersey 101.5, which said most students were acting “mature and responsible and doing what they need to do to keep themselves and others safe and to enable us to keep students on campus. I am incredibly proud of them. They are the real Red Hawks.”
“But this weekend, some students chose an opposite path,” the text continued. “They gathered in large groups to party without masks and social distancing. Those students apparently think the rules do not apply to them. Those students apparently do not care that their actions could affect the thousands of students who are responsibly trying to pursue their education and the employees who are working hard to keep the University safe and open for them.”
OSU’s crackdown on students comes just weeks after Albion College in Michigan announced it would require students, faculty, and staff to download and install an app that would track their movements for contact tracing purposes.
“Our COVID-19 testing and monitoring plan is comprehensive and on the forefront of public health responses to the current moment,” college president Dr. Mathew Johnson said on July 28. “One of the unique features of our testing plan is that it provides access for local residents and businesses to be included. This will help protect our wider community, as well as those on campus.”
As TechCrunch reported, however, the app is flawed and once downloaded, users have no way to opt-out of its round-the-clock tracking. This led to privacy concerns, but even worse, the outlet reported, “the app had at least two security vulnerabilities only discovered after the app was rolled out.”
“One of the vulnerabilities allowed access to the app’s back-end servers. The other allowed us to infer a student’s COVID-19 test results,” the outlet continued. “The vulnerabilities were fixed. But students are still expected to use the app or face suspension.”