Penn State pact asks students to admit that Covid-19 exposure on campus may cause illness, disability or death
The document, which is being referred to as the Penn State Covid-19 compact, clears the university of liability for exposure to the coronavirus on campus
As students and institutions debate returning to classrooms amid the coronavirus pandemic, Pennsylvania State University in the US has asked students to sign a waiver acknowledging all risk of exposure to Covid-19 that may result from being on campus, and that exposure or infection may result in illness, permanent disability, or death. The document, which is being referred to as the Penn State Covid-19 compact, clears the university of liability for exposure to the coronavirus on campus. It asks students to follow instructions, failing which they may face disciplinary action, including suspension or expulsion.
“I acknowledge that the Centers for Disease Control, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania State University have issued rules and precautions that may, or may not, be effective in mitigating the spread of Covid-19, and that it is my responsibility to follow these and other directives to protect myself and others from the substantial risks posed by this virus. I assume any and all risk of exposure to Covid-19 that may result from attending Penn State or participating in Penn State activities, and I acknowledge that exposure or infection may result in personal injury, illness, permanent disability, or death,” says the document.
All undergraduate and graduate students have been asked to acknowledge the compact and agree to its terms before the beginning of the fall semester. According to the university, to help protect the campus and local communities from the risks posed by Covid-19, the agreement covers a variety of critical topics for students such as coronavirus testing and contact tracing, isolation and quarantine, face masks, social distancing, travel policies and flu vaccination among others.
“The compact is the essential expression of the University community’s commitment to the welfare of all its members. It demands of students their individual and collective attention to the health and safety of all with whom they share our campuses and communities. By agreeing to the basic requirements and expectations expressed in the compact, each student acknowledges the risks involved and declares their personal determination to do what they must to support a return to in-person experiences that is as safe and sustainable as possible,” explains Damon Sims, vice-president for Student Affairs at Penn State.
The requirements stipulated by Penn State include getting tested for Covid-19 as directed by the university, including testing that the university may require before arrival on campus and as necessary throughout the school year, cooperating in contact tracing and wearing face coverings in campus buildings at all times, outdoors when one cannot social distance from others, and wherever state or local laws require. “If you test positive and must isolate, or are identified as a close contact with someone who is infected and must self-quarantine, explicitly follow the university’s instructions. Honor the physical distancing requirements established in classrooms, other campus locations, and all other gatherings on campus; do so in any other context off-campus that requires distancing. Follow guidance from the University and other authorities, including signage, postings, e-mails, and other notifications,” says the compact.
The second section of the compact include recommendations such as self-quarantining for at least seven days before arrival on campus, getting the flu vaccine as soon as the vaccine is available, practicing good hand hygiene practices, staying home if students feel sick and rigorously restricting their travel to only travel that is necessary. Consider walking or biking, rather than public transportation, whenever possible, suggests the university. Students have also been instructed to contact the university health services or campus health staff immediately if they test positive at a location away from campus, including in a different state.
The agreement that students have to sign, states: “I acknowledge that the Penn State student code of conduct outlines sanctions, including suspension or expulsion from the university, that may be imposed should I fail to comply with reasonable directives from university or other officials, including the requirements stated above. And I affirm that I will deliberately engage in practices that discourage the spread of coronavirus.”
The waiver says that if, at any point, students are unable to “sustain these commitments” they will remove themselves from the campus and complete the semester remotely. “If I do not choose to take this step, I understand that I shall have forfeited the privilege of remaining on campus, and that the University may, in the interest of public health and safety, take administrative action to prohibit me from participating in any in-person campus activities, including residing in residence halls, attending classes, or joining any other pursuit that otherwise would be available to me. In short, I recognize that I may forfeit my opportunity to continue as a student at Penn State if I fail to honor these critically important public health considerations with the sincere and earnest spirit in which they are expressed,” stipulates the document.