In order to ensure that students are following the mask and social distance guidelines on campus amid the pandemic, the college plans to hire a number of “campus monitors” who will enforce regulations and report instances of non-compliance. The program also aims to reduce Public Safety involvement in the monitoring process.
According to Vice President for Campus Life Annette Diorio, this practice has become common on college campuses across the country.
“Last fall we read about colleges that were fully open deploying students to help remind peers to wear their masks or keep distanced from one another,” Diorio wrote in an email. “We knew there would be fewer campus jobs available this spring because of the condensed hours of many offices, so we decided to add this one to help students get work and use peers to remind others of rules,” she noted.
Diorio emphasized that the program aims to alleviate concerns that some students have over fellow students not complying with the guidelines.
“There is a range of compliance with COVID-19 regulations and a range of comfort levels about asking peers to comply. We did not want to deploy Public Safety to be reminding students about simple things like mask usage or using common spaces,” she wrote. “This is a way to help reinforce expectations in a hopefully less threatening way.”
These students will not be writing their peers up, she added, but will be a voice for those who are “less comfortable” with asking other students to comply with the regulations.
The college plans to hire 10 to 12 students, each of whom will work for about four hours a week. According to Diorio, the campus monitoring will entail “walking through buildings and reminding folks to put masks on; helping with distancing in spaces like the atrium or dining lines; working likely in pairs for a couple of hours, helping to reinforce expectations.”
The students will be able to disclose to others that they are campus monitors, and will identify themselves in some cases so that students know that they are there to help.
“The object is for students to know who [the monitors] are and ideally, for students to simply cooperate with what they are asked to do,” Diorio said.
The campus currently is at Operational Level Two, meaning that there is a moderate level of alert for COVID-19 transmission. While students have the option to report instances of non-compliance through an online form, many may be concerned about the effects of their peers being put in a regulatory position to report on others.
“I have gathered folks are sensitive about being watched. Students, in particular, are feeling that we are trying to turn peers against each other,” Diorio wrote.
“Ideally, students have conversations about things that make them uncomfortable. However, there are power dynamics in play that we are trying to compensate for by adding some additional structure,” she added.
The overall goal of the program is to help ensure COVID-19 safety guidelines are followed rather than for campus monitors to report misbehavior.
“I would encourage students to embrace the idea that we are striving to help them achieve the normalcy they desire rather than assume we are simply focused on enforcement for enforcement’s sake,” Diorio said. “We’ll keep communicating through my weekly updates what we hope to achieve and I encourage students to ask questions when they have them.”