Code of Conduct regulates student life

Code of Conduct regulates student life

Wake Forest has successfully kept campus open since move-in started on Aug. 17, a timeline that sounds short but is on the longer side of higher education in-person operations in North Carolina when considering the early switch to online learning seen at UNC Chapel-Hill and NC State.

Yet, despite achieving larger compliance from students, faculty and staff over the past month, police reports of students breaking social distancing and safety rules have also been a frequent occurrence this semester. As of Tuesday, the Office of the Dean of Students has received 281 reports of possible COVID-19 violations on campus through the university’s COVID-19 Health and Safety Compliance Form, a platform that allows students to anonymously report on COVID-19 violations.

“The majority of students are wearing face coverings and maintaining social distance. We are generally encouraged, but plan to continue to be vigilant in working to protect our community,” said Dean of Students and Associate Vice President Adam Goldstein. “We have focused considerable energy on positive ‘Show Humanitate’ messaging to promote safe behaviors and have also worked with students to engage with peers to help everyone take shared responsibility for the safety of our community. But, we have also had some who have not followed the COVID-19-related restrictions added to the student code of conduct.”

This fall, disrespecting COVID-19 restrictions on campus is considered a violation of the student code of conduct and subject to the normal range of sanctions from educational requirement to suspension or expulsion. If students are reported to have breached the new COVID-19 restrictions on the student code of conduct, they will be assigned a hearing officer that will listen to their case and determine if they breached the student code of conduct. Hearings happen on a rolling basis, but given its urgent public health status, COVID-19 matters are given priority.

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“Because COVID-19 cases are a public health issue, the timeline for these hearings moves a lot faster and the student is notified that they will have a hearing within a few days of the incident,” said senior Maddy Harris, co-chair of the Board of Investigators and Advisors tasked with advising students through the hearing process. “One of the possible sanctions for a COVID-19 violation is suspension and the university does consider it when handling these cases. Every case is different, so there isn’t a specific situation where a student would get suspended, but if a student endangers the health of others it is a possibility.”

Large gatherings and violation of room guest policies have been the most common COVID-19-related violations among students this semester, with some violations having the potential of becoming a superspreading events. On Sept. 12, university police reported a large off-campus gathering involving 150 to 200 students at Fares Lane, breaking both Wake Forest and North Carolina’s guidelines for outdoor gatherings.

“It is important for students to know that we have issued suspensions for behaviors that place the health and safety of our community at risk,” Goldstein said. “These behaviors include hosting social events that exceed the number of attendees allowed and where few are following masking or physical distancing expectations, and not complying with the Student Health Center’s instructions for quarantine and isolation.”

The Old Gold & Black reached out to students facing COVID-19 sanctions, but those we spoke to declined to comment on their hearing status for fear of jeopardizing their appeal. Goldstein did not provide a specific number of student suspended beyond confirming that the sanction has been issued.

According to Harris, most cases of COVID-19 student violations this semester have risen from smaller indoors gatherings on campus, where students oftentimes misinterpreted room capacity guidelines.

“I know a lot of students that have mentioned during their hearing that they thought it was okay to follow the North Carolina guidelines, not the Wake Forest ones, [though] we all signed [an agreement] at the beginning of the semester saying that we had to follow the Wake guidelines,” Harris said. “[For room capacity limits] it’s one guest per person where you live. So, if you live in a suite of four people each person brings a guest. If you live in a suite of five people and one person brings a guest, that’d be 10 people. But you can’t exceed 10 people. So, if you live in a suite of six people, you can’t have 12 people. That’s probably the biggest thing that students are getting in trouble for.”

Students are also expected to wear masks during indoor gatherings with people outside their suite, even if they are under capacity.

All new policies and expectations can be found on the university’s Our Way Forward website. If students are still confused or unsure about certain requirements the Board of Investigators and Advisors, the Office of the Dean of Students and the Office of Residence Life and Housing are all sources of information regarding the COVID-19 requirements and expectations.

“We are trying to keep everyone on campus for the rest of the year and we are trying to keep the faculty, staff and everyone that works here safe. There are a lot more risks [involved] than just you getting COVID-19 … All it takes is one person to spread it to 100 people, so make sure that everyone stays safe,” Harris said.

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