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COVID caution: Are Miami University students taking COVID protocols seriously?

Since the return of many off-campus students in August, cases of COVID-19 have been growing. As on-campus students begin returning to campus, there are concerns over members of the Miami community properly following guidelines.

Kimberly Moore, associate vice president for student life and dean of students, said there is a wide variation within the student population’s level of understanding and the decisions being made based on that knowledge. 

“I'm confident that many of our students are taking this seriously, but I also know that many of our students aren't,” Moore said. 

Moore said she knows some students are taking the rules seriously because students have reached out to her to share their thoughts, questions and concerns about the virus. 

Because of the number of COVID cases, incident reports, police contact with students and the amount of conduct incidents, Moore said it is obvious some students aren’t taking protocol seriously.

“We have over 130 students who are ... facing conduct [violations] for COVID related incidents,” Moore said. 

Elizabeth Knieriemen is a sophomore finance major who is currently living in Oxford; she said she thinks people fear potentially getting in trouble with the university. 

“I think people are really afraid …  A lot [of my friends], and me personally as well, don't want to risk getting suspended or any punishments just to go out for one night,”  Knieriemen said.

Moore said the primary reason students are facing code of conduct violations is because of parties. 

Caroline Bartoszek, a sophomore psychology and neuroscience major, said she has seen students hosting parties in Oxford, and that the rule-breaking upsets her. 

“[It] makes me feel a little bit more powerless,” Bartoszek said. “I'm thinking, ‘Well, if this outbreak keeps getting bigger, I'm not going to be able to do things like go uptown, go to the farmer's market or go on campus.’”

Sophomore psychology and premedical studies major Heather Yenchesky said although she believes the school is doing its best, she wishes more had been done earlier. 

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“I wish [the university] had done some more … when everybody was moving into places off-campus,” Yenchesky said. “Right now, I feel like they're trying to do their best with the wide-net testing.”

One of the university’s recent strategies to try to educate the student body about COVID was a required module. 

Steve Large is the assistant vice president for student life, health and wellness. In an email to The Miami Student, Large said that the objective of the module was to ensure every student received a baseline of knowledge about the virus, while also learning about the university’s guidelines and expectations for students. 

As of Sept. 4, there were still 16,213 students who had not completed the required module, said Large — for context, there are about 17,000 undergraduates at the Oxford campus. He added that so far, the university hasn’t received any negative feedback about the module. He believes it will be an effective tool for students because it offers an overview of important information to guide student behavior. 

Andrew Holland is a sophomore chemical engineering major who recently moved into his dorm room in Hillcrest Hall. Holland said the COVID module was informative and could help make people cognizant of good habits that could prevent the spread.

“It did help give information and tips that people need to know, like make sure to build up a habit of … putting on a mask and then sanitation and knowing, ‘OK, don't touch my face,’” Holland said.

Bartoszek also liked the module, but she said she thinks it didn’t matter because students could skip through videos without watching them. 

“If I had taken it during any other time where I was stressed or needed to get it on quickly, I probably would have skipped through the videos,” Bartoszek said. “If someone's not informed about COVID, they're still going to skip to the videos and then stay uninformed.”

Large said there were several reasons why videos were not required to be played. The first reason being that the university wanted to give students a choice concerning whether they wanted to learn more about a topic when it is already covered in writing. 

The other reason pertains to accessibility. Students were provided transcripts as an alternative method of consumption.

Currently, there are no other plans to develop an additional module that focuses on the topic of COVID-19, Large said. According to Miami’s Healthy Together website, students who do not complete the module on time will continue to receive reminders until it is completed. 

Although student opinions vary, Moore said, at the end of the day, the university needs students to comply and do what they are being asked to do.

“There are going to be students who aren't thinking from a community framework, that are going to make some choices that are going to be detrimental,” Moore said. “But I truly always remind folks that there's more students who do the right thing.”