Sun. Feb 28th, 2021

The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Commuter students fail to take required COVID tests

4 min read

As of publication, 500 commuter and off-campus students have yet to take their COVID-19 entry test. | The Blue & Gray Press

By VIRGINIA RICHARDSON

Staff Writer

Upon returning to campus for the spring 2021 semester, all students were required to sign up for re-entry COVID-19 testing, but there have been complications in getting all commuter students tested. As of publication, about 500 off-campus students have yet to be tested.

For on-campus students, presentation of a negative test result to their RA was required before they were allowed to move back into their dorm room. Off-campus students did not have the same clear cut restrictions and, as a result, not all off-campus students have been tested. This is often not for lack of trying.

Off-campus students’ physical presence on campus varies much more than those living on campus. CJ Porter, director of Transfer and Off-Campus Student Services, and her team laid out three main categories of students. First, there are those who attend in-person classes, jobs and other on-campus activities. Then there are those who are entirely remote but whose status might change according to their or their classes’ needs. Finally, there are those who are 100 percent remote and will never be on campus. 

The variation amongst these groups has caused a lot of confusion about who needs testing and when. Those who will never be on campus and fulfill certain requirements can choose to opt-out. Students who have no reason to be on campus now but might need to later are recommended to apply to opt-out and request testing later for when they will be physically present so the information is as up-to-date as possible.

Denise Naughton, a sophomore computer science and economics double major and president of the Off-Campus Student Association (OCSA), falls into the second category of off-campus students. She took the test as a precaution. “I don’t plan on coming to campus at all during the semester but thought I would get it just in case I had to come there for any reason,” said Naughton. 

Filling out the sign up wasn’t the problem for most students. According to one commuter student, junior political science major Griffin Koch, “signing up was very easy and really only took about a minute.” 

Koch’s biggest problem was navigating the campus, as a transfer student who has taken only online classes and hasn’t had a need to be on campus. Certainly, this is a concern for new students.

According to Porter, for students who were required to complete re-entry testing and didn’t do so, emails were sent out from both the Office of Transfer & Off-Campus Students and the COVID-19 Implementation Team with increasing urgency. By the final warning, if the student fails to complete testing they will be barred from campus and network access is shut off. To regain access students will be required to contact the IT desk which will then provide instructions in order to get tested. These emails proved effective as, of the approximately 2,200 off-campus students that had been contacted initially, only about 500 remain that still required testing by the end of the third week of classes.

“The persistence of those emails is what prompted me to actually make an effort to get tested,” said Koch. “Over time, those emails became increasingly verbose and made more frequent use of bolded and red text.” 

Naughton similarly said, “I have received many emails about testing information and many emails about how to get tested. The university did a great job spreading the information.”

The COVID-19 Implementation and Testing teams are keeping track of those students who have not taken the test. The biggest challenge they face is getting in contact with those students. Often technical difficulties can occur and the emails are never received or sent to spam folders, and off-campus students can lose network access without ever knowing the problem. In the case of a student purposefully not getting tested and ignoring protocols, judicial action could be pursued. In line with MMDC policies, serious violations of health and safety protocols, such as intentionally avoiding testing, could have the student referred to the Office of Student Conduct & Responsibility whereupon evaluation a range of disciplinary actions could ensue.

For additional testing upon request, the UMW Health Center is providing testing for students exhibiting symptoms during the nine to five workday and has provided a list of places that students can also go after hours for immediate testing. Random surveillance testing will also continue to take place over the coming months to combat the spread through students who may be asymptomatic. Five hundred on-campus and off-campus students weekly will be randomly selected to take part. Students who are selected for surveillance testing but don’t complete it will be sent email warnings and risk losing access to campus facilities and network for failure to comply with the regulations. 

When asked what she’d like to stress to students who haven’t yet been tested, Porter said, “I’d just like them to reach out to me, together we’ll figure out where you fall in those three categories. I want to make sure everybody can get through the semester as they need.”

Students who have not yet gotten reentry testing or have questions about prevalence testing can reach out to CJ Porter at cjporter@umw.edu. If students have any other questions about testing, they can email covid-test@umw.edu

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