Dean of Students Allen Groves issued clarifying statements on the restrictions, exceptions and enforcement of the University’s revised COVID-19 policy, SEC-045, in a University-wide email Monday. The policy was recently revised to “better comport with the current crisis we face and what we have learned thus far,” Groves wrote.
In a separate email to students, University Judiciary Committee Chair Gabby Cox, a fourth-year Batten student, explained that the UJC will enforce COVID-19 compliance, though Cox hopes students will hold themselves and each other accountable before reporting to the UJC, if necessary.
There have been 47 reports of students violating COVID-19 restrictions, though there is significant overlap between the reports, Groves told The Cavalier Daily on Monday evening. 11 reports were from the University’s Just Report It portal, while 36 reports were made through the community portal — three of these incidents are being investigated by the University.
“Of these [reports], we are investigating three right now as possible high-risk social gatherings in clear violation of policy and our articulated expectations,” Groves said.
Events and Gatherings
Groves established a broad definition of events and gatherings which cannot exceed more than 15 individuals as “any activity bringing together people from different residences for in-person interaction while engaging in a common undertaking (such as a meeting, social event, or other extracurricular activity).”
There are exceptions to these restrictions, however. In large, outdoor spaces like Mad Bowl, the Amphitheater and the Lawn, multiple groups of 15 students are welcome to gather as long as they are distanced from each other.
Additionally, more than 15 students may occupy tents that have been set up by the University as long as social distancing is being practiced and the tent is not at its occupancy limit.
Groves also established exceptions for religious activities, University-sponsored classes and labs, indoor spaces that are open to the public like grocery stores and restaurants, NCAA and Intramural sporting events and protests.
Face Masks and Social Distancing
According to the email, students will be able to run, walk and spend time outdoors without wearing a face mask as long as they can consistently be at least six feet from others.
There are exceptions that allow students to take off face masks indoors as well, including while students are eating, drinking and exercising in an IM-Rec facility if facility guidelines allow.
Groves also detailed situations where even stricter measures for social distancing will be necessary. For vocal and theatrical practices and performances, 10 feet of distancing will be required. These practices and performances must also be outdoors. Dance rehearsals and performances also require ten feet of distancing, though those may take place indoors.
Discipline, Reporting and the University Judiciary Committee
In her email to students, Cox wrote that the University Judicial Committee is seeking to “protect and promote” the well-being of students by enforcing the University’s COVID-19 policies.
“While the UJC exists to hold students accountable at an institutional level, we hope that you will hold one another accountable on an individual level as well,” Cox wrote.
Students will be able to report violations of the University’s COVID-19 policy either directly to the University Judiciary Committee or through the University’s Just Report It website.
However, not all reports will be actively investigated by the University Judiciary Committee.
“It is important to note that the level of severity in a reported case will determine if a response is necessary; not all reports will result in follow-up, but they will be tracked by the Office of the Dean of Students,” Cox wrote.
In their emails, Cox and Groves both stated that an interim suspension is an option for students who violate COVID-19 restrictions.
“Immediate interim suspension is reserved for the most serious and flagrant violations, in particular hosting or attending a large social gathering of greater than 15 people,” Groves wrote. “It is also applicable for repeated violations of masking or social distancing expectations after being counseled on the need to comply.”
The UJC does not operate on precedent and considers sanctioning on a case-by-case basis, Cox said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily. She encourages any student who is unsure of how a behavior may be adjudicated to reach out to her for clarification.
“We, as an executive committee, have been working tirelessly on these new policy updates and our response to it,” Cox said of how UJC is working to address cases of COVID-19 policy non-compliance. “The last thing I want to do is have students be blindly fearful of consequences, rather than ask me if something is unclear.”