August OUSC student concern forum addresses health and safety plans



Administrators across campus joined OUSC’s President Ethan Bradley and Vice President Annabella Jankowski to discuss concerns regarding the health and safety plan for the fall semester. Photo by Lauren Karmo.

Ethan Bradley, president of Oakland University Student Congress (OUSC), posed question after question to administrators, during OUSC’s student concerns forum on Tuesday, Aug. 11.

Topics from this month’s forum included health and safety concerns and what the university plans to do when faced with the reality of getting sick on campus. 

Students are asked to wear masks inside any campus building or within six feet of others outside. Students don’t have to wear a mask if they are in a private room with the door closed. Daily screening and symptom monitoring is expected of every student who plans to step foot on campus. Should a student violate health and safety regulations by not wearing a mask, ignoring housing guest policies or any other measures, they will be violating the student code of conduct

“A lot of that enforcement will come through the dean of students’ office,” said Jessie Hurse, associate dean of students and deputy title IX coordinator. “We have protocols in place to ensure we make any and all attempts to be educational first and foremost, but what we are willing to do is hold students accountable for not adhering to the public health mandates issued by the state and the university.” 

Should a student refuse educational attempts to follow the regulations, they could be expelled from the university. 

“Any time a student is found responsible for violation of the student code of conduct, the ultimate penalty or sanction could be removal from the school,” Dean of Students Michael Wadsworth said. “But, we have a progressive conduct system. We’ll be meeting with students, we’ll be talking with students, we’ll be doing whatever we can to get compliance and help those folks continue to be successful students and participants of our community, but we will follow our system and if that ends up leading to something like that, then it does, but that isn’t where we start out, that’s for sure.” 

Leading the response on the health side of protocols was Graham Health Center Director Nancy Jansen, ANP-BC. When asked about how to handle suspected illness, she said on-site testing will be available for any student showing symptoms, as well as antibody testing. Students will be asked to either wear the BioButton or fill out screening questions accessible via MySail in order to monitor symptoms. 

According to Jansen, if a student does appear to be showing symptoms, the health center will make a recommendation on the next step, whether that be self quarantining or getting tested. Information on how many cases reported in the OU community is being documented and accessible on the Graham Health Center’s page on the OU website. 

“Currently, our process is to of course identify a case and notify the [Oakland County] health department,” Jansen said. “That individual is then interviewed by the health department, and immediate contacts are told to quarantine. Beyond that, I do put information on my website, just general numbers, about the number of cases, so at this point we’re relying on the advice of the health department to notify the people that need to be quarantined.”

Prior to move-in, all students planning to live on campus must test negative for the virus. This, however, will be the only time housing students will be asked to take a test unless they have been exposed or are showing symptoms. Should an individual in housing contract COVID-19, University Housing Director James Zentmeyer has asked each student to list a secondary location for them to isolate in.

Should a student be unable to have a secondary location to isolate in, university housing has come up with some solutions. 

“We also know there are a variety of mitigating circumstances where there is always the existence of a possibility where moving home is not a viable option,” Zentmeyer said. “That could be medically related, that could be family related, that could be all sorts of issues involved. We have located a number of locations on campus to isolate in.” 

If an isolating individual is a part of the housing meal plan, food will be delivered to them at a safe distance. University housing is currently working to create a plan for food delivery should a student without a meal plan need to quarantine on campus. 

Questions regarding the logistics of doing classwork while quarantining also came up, as students were wondering what options they had if they were unable to attend their in-person classes. 

Interim Associate Provost Anne Hitt reminded students that there is no university-wide attendance policy, but professors have been asked to be more flexible and understanding when students may need to miss class.

“The faculty have been asked to preferably record and stream their in person classes so that students who get a red [BioButton screening] and can’t make it to school or have some other thing happen so they can’t make it, can keep up with things,” Hitt said. “If somebody really gets sick with COVID-19, they may end up in the hospital or something horrible, so the regular procedures that we do will be in place.” 

Should a professor get sick with COVID-19, the university has arranged for there to be alternate professors for most classes aside from specific higher level, specialized courses. 

While the university is confident in their health and safety requirements, they warned that another university-wide shutdown similar to the one last March would occur if the state were to return to phase three of the MI Safe Smart Plan. 

“All the directives we have in place will protect everybody, not just certain individuals with risk factors,” Jansen said. “We’re all in this together, we all have to be. If we’re all doing these very important behaviors all the time, we will make the environment much less risky for all of us. We all just have to keep that in the forefront.”

The next student concerns forum will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 15 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. via Google Meet.