WVU required all unvaccinated students to complete mandatory testing and required all students, regardless of vaccination status, to complete a COVID educational module by Aug. 17.
Almost a month afterwards, hundreds of WVU students are out of compliance, and administrators are starting to crack down with varying degrees of severity.
Executive Director of WVU Student Conduct Carrie Showalter said her office sent out letters with instructions earlier this month to students who have not completed testing. Several hundred students completed COVID testing after the letters, but 430 have yet to go get tested.
“Our goal is to really have students to test so that we can make sure that we keep campus safe,” Showalter said.
Each of these students had till the following Friday to get tested, according to Showalter. When students fail to comply, they typically face judicial holds, which prevent them from registering for classes.
In many cases, she said a message from Student Conduct results in compliance from students.
“Obviously, the goal is compliance,” Showalter said. “We’re not trying to be punitive. If we need to have some punitive aspects, we do.”
The majority of cases Student Conduct handles come from students failing to get tested.
Additionally, over two dozen unvaccinated WVU students have skirted quarantine and isolation requirements.
When unvaccinated students test positive or exhibit symptoms of COVID-19, they are required to self-isolate for ten days. Those who come into close contact with infected individuals are required to quarantine for two weeks as well.
Since the start of the semester, Student Conduct has handled 25 cases of students violating quarantine and isolation protocols. Roughly half of those violations were from this past week, said Showalter.
The failure to quarantine cases are all unvaccinated students. All students, regardless of vaccination status, who test positive for COVID are required to self-isolate.
“If it's a failure to isolate or failure to quarantine, you know, those are cases that really put the safety of campus at risk,” Showalter said. “And so those are cases where students may be charged automatically with a failure to comply with the testing protocols and endangerment.”
When students don’t quarantine or isolate, their Student Conduct hearings are settled by an outside adjudicator. Students then have the chance to present evidence and refute the charges.
Depending on the nature of the violation, students may even face suspension or expulsion from the University. Showalter said her office handled a number of suspensions and expulsions during the last academic year.
“I think there’s always a possibility of expulsion,” Showalter said. “Obviously, it’s the most extreme sanction because it’s the hardest sanction in terms of restrictions. I mean it’s a permanent removal from campus, so we don’t take those lightly.”
Over the summer, WVU told students and employees completion of a COVID-19 educational module would be required by Aug. 17.
Now, the failure to complete the module is no longer grounds for punishment on its own.
“[The COVID module is] being considered whenever we’re reviewing the failed testing cases,” Showalter said. “So it's something we're not addressing as a direct violation on its own but as a consideration of a factor in all the other failure to comply cases.”
She added that the number of students who have not completed the module changes daily and could not be provided with any accuracy.
In a faculty meeting Monday, professors Nicolas Zegre and Andrew Nix voiced their concerns about students following the most recent mask protocol. WVU expanded its mask requirements to all in-door facilities on Sept. 10.
“But a lot of the common areas where they haven't had to wear them for the last few weeks, I'd say 50% or more [are] not wearing masks,” Nix said.
Showalter anticipates her office will see a rise in mask violations in the coming weeks but says it’s difficult to address the failure to wear masks without specifics.
“I do imagine now that there has been a big change in the rule that we'll get more of those,” Showalter said.
“But I would encourage people when they report it to give us specifics because somebody will say to us, ‘There were several students in the B&E common area that were not wearing masks.’ It's hard for us to address that when we don't have specific information.”
Students and employees can report COVID violations through the Student Conduct website.
“It’s just that when you find yourself in a pandemic like this, we just have to make sure that we are using every tool that we have — to make sure that we're following through and making sure that students are following the guidelines so that we can continue and make sure that the campus stays open and that everybody's doing well.”