This fall, the Student Rights and Responsibilities (SRR) office released a digital COVID-19 Community Reporting Form that students, faculty and staff can use to report any violations of COVID-19 policy they see at Lewis & Clark.
Interim Director of Student Rights and Responsibilities Jessica Carron worked with her office over the summer to put together the form as a tool for students concerned about the behavior of their peers amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Carron said when someone submits the form, it goes directly to her.
“I review them to see if I believe COVID-19 policy has been violated or not based on the standards published to students, and if I think that student has violated that policy, I’m going to determine have they violated policy before, how severe is the violation of the policy and who was potentially harmed in this situation.” Carron said. “Someone who’s not wearing their mask to class, while that’s concerning for us for sure, it’s not as severe as someone who might be hosting a COVID party or something like that.”
Carron said there is a protocol for students who are reported for not wearing masks.
“For a student who maybe just consistently hasn’t been wearing their mask to class or in the residence hall, I might send them a warning first,” Carron said. “But if it’s the second time they’re being reported by an RA or a community member … if they’re not wearing their mask out in the public area, we might move to a formal meeting with our staff to talk about the impact of it and why it’s important for you to wear your mask on campus, because we do affect others.”
Regardless of how a student violates LC’s COVID-19 policy, if they do not change their behavior after a formal meeting with SRR, the office might determine that it is best for the student to continue the semester off-campus.
For students concerned about a form being traced back to them or the social impact of submitting a report about their peers, Carron said that students can put as much or as little information as they would like into the reporting form.
“It does limit our ability to follow up on things, so if you give a really vague report and you don’t give your name or anything, I might not be able to reach out to you and say, ‘Can you fill out these gaps for me?’” Carron said. “All that might mean is it might not become a conduct case. That person might not receive a warning, but if I generally know where something’s happening, even if I don’t have enough information, I can ask their AD (area director) to follow up with them.”
Despite these protections, some students might still be wary to involve the college administration in every instance of a breach of policy. Nick Gothard ’21 predicts that students will only resort to the form for severe policy violations like parties or large gatherings without masks.
“I don’t anticipate that it would see a lot of use,” Gothard said. “I think that the enormity of the form sort of contributes to it only being used for super serious violations, which I think is beneficial. And it’s my hope that rather than folks jumping right on the form, a conversation takes place before that.”
When asked about how often the COVID-19 Community Reporting Form has been used, Carron said that she has received about a dozen reports related to breaches of LC’s COVID-19 policies.
Carron agrees that the form is just one of many ways that students can address their concerns about their peers’ behavior.
“I hope people use it and utilize it, but remember that you can always reach out to each other and have those conversations, and if they have any questions about the form, they can always reach out to our office about it,” Carron said.
While the Associated Students of Lewis & Clark (ASLC) had no role in the development of the SRR form, they have advertised it to students over social media. Olivia Weiss ’23, a co-chair of the ASLC COVID-19 Response Task Force and a newly elected senator, said there had been some demand in the student body for something like the Community Reporting Form, even before it was created.
“Before the form, (the task force was) receiving complaints about violations and questions about where to report violations in our email inbox,” Weiss said via email. “As the ASLC we have no ability to enforce policy, so we did feel as though these complaints needed to go elsewhere (and there were clearly students looking to report violations they had seen and felt like they needed to be heard).”
Weiss hopes that the form will help students on campus in their efforts to develop health-minded behavior.
“While this may not be a sustainable long-term solution, it does seem like an efficient way for students to express their concern when they feel unsafe,” Weiss said. “Personally, I hope that the reporting form serves to show students how seriously the college is taking these policies, as well as encourage community accountability.”
Gothard also believes that regardless of how students feel about the college’s response to the global health crisis, it is ultimately up to the student body as a community to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus at LC.
“I think it’s sort of a difficult issue because, on one hand, it feels like if the college were to bring students back knowing the circumstances and knowing the nature of college students, it does feel like the burden of control should be placed primarily on the college,” Gothard said. “On the other hand, I feel like it’s our job as a community to try and promote healthy community actions.”