The University of Maryland in College Park referred about 150 students to its conduct office for failing to comply with coronavirus testing requirements, a school spokeswoman said this week.
Students and employees who visit the campus for classes, on-campus jobs or other activities are required to complete daily symptom checks and confirm they have tested negative for the coronavirus. But officials discovered dozens were noncompliant this fall.
The university generates reports of students who visit campus and have not submitted coronavirus test results from off-campus clinics or do not have upcoming testing appointments on campus, said Katie Lawson, a spokeswoman for the campus. The school also uses its building locking system and Wi-Fi network to monitor who visits campus and if visitors have completed health screenings, according to U-Md.’s data policy.
The health screenings, designed to capture information about symptoms related to the coronavirus, are a series of questions answered in an app.
Students who did not follow those requirements this semester received two warnings before being referred to the Office of Student Conduct, Lawson said. Upon referral, students are required to attend an information session about the disciplinary process, then officials will determine if sanctions are warranted.
Lawson said about 22,000 students have come onto the campus this semester. The overwhelming majority are compliant, said Patty Perillo, vice president of student affairs.
“I’m really proud of how our students and community have widely adopted healthy behaviors. We have witnessed countless examples of our students holding each other accountable,” Perillo said in a statement. “At the same time, it is on us to check in with our community, and in those cases where we are seeing noncompliance with testing – about 150 cases – our Office of Student Conduct is reaching out to learn more.”
Employees who do not abide by testing requirements are also subject to punishment, Lawson said.
The action comes as the university transitions to online courses for the rest of the semester. The school hosted a mix of virtual and in-person classes for most of the fall.
Darryll Pines, the campus’ president, cited a surge in coronavirus cases throughout the state when he announced the campus would move to online learning.
“Like many of you, I wish for a return to normalcy for our university, including the full resumption of in-person classes and extracurricular activities,” Pines said this month. “Yet this virus continues to demand vigilance, patience and perseverance.”
Fifty-seven people – including 11 who said they were tested off-campus – tested positive for the virus the week before Thanksgiving, data from the university show.
As students hurried to get tested before leaving for Thanksgiving break, some faced complications, said Jade Holman, 21, a senior who organized a petition asking the school to offer more regular testing.
“Most of us came back to this campus, like me, just because we were scared about spreading [the virus] to our families, to or communities,” Holman said. “Coming back to campus seemed like a safer option.”
U-Md. told students when the semester started it would enforce safety protocols designed to reduce spread of the virus and provide access to testing. The school has administered more than 61,000 tests since June and holds biweekly universitywide testing events. Students who need immediate tests – either because they are showing symptoms or think they have been around someone with the coronavirus – can visit the health center for a same-day test.
But Holman said students are running into issues, including staffing shortages at testing events and confusion over who can access same-day testing. Holman said she was denied a same-day test after waking up with symptoms and had to push the health center to provide one.
Holman suggested the school conduct more campuswide testing events and do more to ensure every student is tested regularly, particularly as it prepares to bring more students back to campus in the spring and increase the number of in-person classes.
“Our school seems to be pretty unprepared for this, for our return to campus,” Holman said.