By Grace Ferguson
Two months into the fall semester, BU continues to issue thousands of warnings every week to students who are overdue on COVID-19 testing or symptom attestation.
“About 80 percent of my job has become compliance,” Senior Associate Dean of Students Jason Campbell-Foster said.
The dean’s office is bringing on a new full-time staff member to manage compliance issues.
The number of warnings issued each week for overdue symptom attestations has fallen from its peak of over 12,000 in late September.
But last week, BU issued 3,105 warnings, and that has been the lowest number yet.
“The attestation continues to be a real concern with people. And it’s the same for faculty, staff, and students,” Campbell-Foster said.
Meanwhile, the number of warnings sent to students who missed or failed to schedule a COVID-19 test shot up to nearly 1,300 last week.
That’s after BU had been issuing just 130 to 150 warnings for testing every week over the last month.
Campbell-Foster said a lot of those students actually have stopped coming to campus, either because they were spending the week at home or they wanted to finish the semester remotely, but they didn’t communicate their plans to the university.
In other cases, he said that unforeseen circumstances might have prevented a student from making it to their appointment.
“What we’re seeing is, with every one of those warning letters that we send out, we’re hearing a thousand particular situations as to why they weren’t tested,” Campbell-Foster said. “So, even though that’s the number in noncompliance, it doesn’t mean there’s 1,100 students walking around a danger to the community.”
Campbell-Foster added that, overwhelmingly, students his office reaches out to are apologetic and motivated to get back into compliance.
Overall, around 90 percent of students have been complying with COVID-19 protocols from week to week. That number is lower among students who live off campus, and the lowest among off-campus undergraduates.
Campbell-Foster said that daily symptom attestations have been a point of confusion for off-campus students who aren’t on campus every day. They still have to complete attestations seven days a week, regardless of which days they’re on campus.
BU has taken some measures to bring off-campus compliance up. The university has started requiring students to show green compliance badges at public places on campus, like the GSU and dining halls.
“That’s part of the reason why we went to the badge checks at some of the major public spaces on campus, so that we could get that number higher,” Campbell-Foster said. “And we have, we’ve chipped away at the off-campus number quite a bit, because people still come into the GSU, they want to go to the library.”
As of this week, Massachusetts has limited the number of people allowed at indoor gatherings to 10. BU has also lowered its gathering limit so that any student who hosts or attends a gathering of 10 people or more could face suspension. Before, BU’s limit was 25.
But Campbell-Foster said it’s not about that magic number. He wants students to think about the size of their space, because cramming too many people into a small apartment can make it hard to stay six feet apart.
“We’re seeing a lot of gatherings that are smaller, but just as problematic as if they were 25,” Campbell-Foster said.
Reports of noncompliant off-campus gatherings have been in the teens most weeks, though the week of October 30th saw only eight of those gatherings.
Earlier in October, BU suspended 12 students for participating in a series of dangerous gatherings in Allston. These were the first and only suspensions of the semester, though some other students are just one violation away from being suspended themselves.
Campbell-Foster said he takes no joy in sending students home for these violations. He went into higher education to help students make the most of college life.
“It is completely antithetical to my teaching and to my professional approach, to my work, to suspend students or to somehow interrupt their academic pursuit,” Campbell-Foster said. “I hate it. It doesn’t feel right. But I also know that we have such an incredible duty to keep the state safe, to keep our people safe, and the families that we all go home to safe.”