In an effort to be more transparent about COVID-19 policy violations, the College has launched a COVID-19 Student Conduct Dashboard on February 16. The dashboard reports the number of students found responsible for COVID-19 policy violations and who have been removed from campus for such violations during the spring semester. So far this semester, the College has found three students responsible for a COVID-19 violations, and all three resulted in removal from campus and withdrawal of on-campus privileges.
During the fall 2020 semester, 125 students were found responsible for COVID-19 policy violations. These violations were not publicly reported to the community.
In a meeting at the end of the fall 2020 semester between the Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) and the Division of Student Affairs, BSG President Marcus Williams ’21 raised the possibility of including a conduct dashboard to provide more accountability.
“Administrators were taking action, and students [were] not being [made] aware of that,” said Williams. “So let’s say there was a party that happened. And then students were like, ‘Hey, did they do anything about that party?’ And this was a way for students to know that the administration was actually taking complaints serious[ly].”
He also hoped that the dashboard would tamper rumors spreading throughout the community about whether or not students had been told to leave campus.
According to Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Community Standards Katherine O’Grady, consequences of COVID-19 policy violations ranged from educational conversations to removal from campus.
Students residing on campus and students with on-campus privileges were required to sign the Spring Campus Community Agreement (CCA), which outlined the College’s COVID-19 specific policies.
When evaluating disciplinary action related to a violation of the CCA, the College classifies an action as either a “minor violation” or a “major violation.” Actions are categorized as major or minor based on the risk of illness and community spread.
“All conduct violations are evaluated based on the campus status level in effect at the time of the violation (Hibearnation, Red, Orange and Yellow). Among other things, assessment also considers the extent to which the conduct increased the risk of COVID-19 transmission,” wrote O’Grady in an email to the Orient.
The CCA identifies an example of a minor violation as not wearing a mask outside your bedroom when required, while examples of major violations include missing more than one COVID-19 test, leaving campus for nonessential reasons and hosting gatherings that violate the CCA.
Students who must leave campus or lose on-campus privileges due to a COVID-19 conduct violation typically remain “in good standing” and may complete the semester remotely. However, depending on how professors have structured their courses, students may face serious implications for their academic progress if they are enrolled in an in-person course that cannot be adapted for remote learning.
Bowdoin is the second NESCAC to implement a “conduct” dashboard. Last semester, Middlebury released a dashboard that is compliant with Vermont’s Mandatory Guidance for College and University Campus Learning, which requires that higher education institutions provide COVID-19-related disciplinary statistics.
Last semester, Middlebury reported that 132 students were disciplined and 24 students were dismissed from campus due to COVID-19 conduct violations. Last September, Middlebury welcomed 2,185 students onto their campus, while Bowdoin welcomed 653 students.
The Conduct Dashboard will be updated every Thursday, and cases will be reported on the dashboard after a three-day window has passed during which the student could appeal on the basis of there having been a procedural error or unavailable evidence in their case. The dashboard does not include any details about violations and removals because the College legally cannot disclose identifying information. The dashboard is only accessible to those with Bowdoin accounts in an attempt to further ensure privacy.
“Although federal privacy laws prevent disclosure of any detail, the Conduct Dashboard at least gives the ability to share that COVID-19 violations are taken seriously: they are investigated, and when an individual is found responsible, there is a conduct outcome,” wrote O’Grady.
Although Williams acknowledged the constraints on the amount of information the College could publish, he hopes the dashboard will include more information to alleviate student concerns about bias.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” Williams said. “I personally want a little bit more information regarding what people were getting kicked off for, whether it be a smoking violation or attending a party; I just thought that information would be very useful.”