Demand COVID-19 Policy Enforcement at the University at Buffalo

Demand COVID-19 Policy Enforcement at the University at Buffalo

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Concerned Campus started this petition to The University at Buffalo

TL;DR if a student sees non-compliance on campus, there is no University official responsible for enforcement who can be reached to resolve the issue.

The University at Buffalo has failed to create an effective response to enforce basic COVID-19 safety measures, including face coverings and social distancing.

Rather than creating a team of individuals tasked with enforcing compliance, or delegating this task to a department, The University is solely relying on faculty, staff, and students to create a culture of accountability by agreeing to wear a mask and keep a safe distance.

There is both anecdotal and tangible evidence that many students will not comply with masks and social distancing. Concerned students have encountered these scenarios during our first few days back on campus, but attempts to find University Officials who will enforce compliance have been futile.

The University Police have repeatedly stated that they will not, and cannot enforce social distancing or mask compliance, as there is no law being broken with which they could charge an individual.

The University Administration knows this; despite executive orders  being in place, the mask and distancing policies are just that: policies.

And yet, we search in vain to find any official who has taken responsibility to enforce these mandates and help students feel safe. Similar to the failed UBreath Free policy instated years ago, the University community is well aware that these policies are toothless - just lip-service designed to protect public image without protecting student, faculty, or staff safety.

The precedent of unenforceable policies, combined with quickly spreading knowledge that no one will hold individuals responsible for noncompliance (except in a classroom setting where a student’s name can be recorded in order to refer them to an online safety course), has led to an already-dangerous beginning to the Fall semester. Off- and on-campus parties and non-socially distanced events are taking place and concerned students have no answers.

The majority of the University at Buffalo community wants to comply with these policies, stay safe, stay healthy, and most importantly, stay on campus. With the Governor’s most recent 100 person limit of positive cases, immediate action is needed in order to ensure those who are complying are not going to be adversely effected by the actions of a few irresponsible individuals.

Fees has been raised for students, surely necessary to recoup the losses of the Spring semester and increased costs of migrating to an online environment. In person classes, social clubs, sports, and more have been limited or eliminated. Again, these choices are understood and respected by our community, as disappointing but necessary steps that must be taken to protect our community.

However, it is inherently disrespectful to raise fees and limit services while actively refusing to enforce the same policies which will allow students to return to “normal.” We cannot be turning a blind eye to a public health crisis by excusing the situation as unprecedented and unmanageable.

To be clear, we know there is no precedent for this situation. We are all aware that the University has been placed in the precarious position of navigating slashed budgets, migrating an entire workforce to virtual offices, and developing online content for students, all while balancing safety concerns and attempting to provide great educational and social experiences for students. We respect the incredibly hard work and difficult choices that have been made in order to reopen the campus.

In so many ways, the University at Buffalo has excelled at maintaining its high educational standards, but in this case they have failed.

The University must have an answer for students who feel unsafe on campus. By failing to penalize the few individuals who are putting others in danger, the administration is punishing those who are protecting themselves and others in order to return the campus to a safe, productive, and financially stable environment. In a pandemic with community spread, we have to consider the fact that the University is also impacting the community of Buffalo as a whole.

Therefore, the University must create a department or task force to address instances COVID-19 noncompliance in a timely manner, as noncompliance happens, effectively responding and resolving unsafe situations.

No student who feels unsafe as they watch a group of people congregating with no masks should be told, “there’s nothing we can do.”

That is not “being in it together.” That is deflection and abdication of responsibility.

The UB community wants to be in this together. As proud Bulls, we want to walk onto campus and feel confident that we can say, “here is how I get my start in the world.”

Instead, we are in danger of shouting “here is how a pandemic is spread."

UB, don’t let this be a part of the story you are building.

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