Trinity Enforcement of COVID Policies In Spring Not A “Strike” System, To Remain Largely Unchanged

4 min read

Garrett P. Kirk ’24

News Editor

Trinity will maintain similar enforcement procedures to the fall for coronavirus policy violations on-campus during the spring term according to Chief of Staff and Associate Vice President for External Affairs Jason Rojas. The Tripod investigated Trinity’s enforcement practices following reports early last week of a “strike” system for violations of the COVID policy.

These reports, which came to the Tripod from several students in the athletic department, suggested that Trinity would be moving away from the three-strike policy to a stricter one-strike system. The three-strike system was widely discussed on campus last fall and the subject of Tripod commentary in early September, however, in a statement last week to the Tripod, the administration denied the validity of these claims.

Rojas added that “[T]here is neither a one strike or three strike policy at the college,” noting that the College “did not implement a policy that strictly contemplated a sanction for one offense vs a second or third offense.”

During disciplinary sanctions in November following visits by numerous students to off-campus bars, Vice President of Student Success and Enrollment Management indicated that the College’s enforcement procedures generally entail notice of a first violation and then removal from campus or suspension, among other actions, following a second notice. The College did not issue a formal outline of their disciplinary process in the fall semester, instead referring to broad language in the College’s Student Handbook.

One of the students that the Tripod spoke with indicated that they had heard of the strike system from their athletic teams, adding that “[my coach] mentioned that [the school is] going to be stronger [in their punishments] than they were in the fall in the spring now and it’s going to be more like a one and done type of thing.”

Rojas denied this was the case, though did acknowledge that for “the Spring, enforcement of policies articulated in the Community Contract will include some adjustments based on lessons learned from the Fall 2020 semester but will largely be applied in the same manner.” Rojas did not expand on what those adjustments would be, but suggested that students may have been confused and that coaches “may have been sharing their own expectations for their team members.”

The athletic student told the Tripod that while “we’re not scared, we’re definitely concerned that if we do something slightly off we’re going to get sent home or have some sort of disciplinary action on us.”

Rojas stressed that “[S]anctions are determined on the specific facts of an individual case which takes into account the severity of the violation as well as whether an individual has previously violated a policy.” Rojas additionally cited the Community Contract when describing how the school will handle the punishment for a particular offense, adding that “the severity of sanction will be commensurate with the level of endangering behavior demonstrated.”

Katie Camuso ’21, a senior, commended the school on their efforts despite the difficult position the administration was put in, adding that she knows “they were kind of taking on a lot which was hard to manage the repercussions of it all. I think towards the end of the semester they definitely did their best to continually update us.”

To others, the policy seems similar to Trinity’s past decision to adjudicate campus matters on a case-by-case basis. Some students have observed this policy not as the nimble method of arbitration, but as a one-size-fits-all approach that gives out the same penalty for students regardless of the severity of an offense.

One freshman Public Policy and Law major told the Tripod that “Trinity says that they will have a case-to-case punishment policy, but it seems that two very different cases have the same punishments,” also mentioning, “they just give everybody the same punishment, basically.” One first-year student majoring in Economics told the Tripod that they continue to remain confused about expectations, noting that the administration “still doesn’t specify what we can and can’t do. It’s just all confusing.”

This student further noted that the policy “still seems very broad to me. It still seems like they still don’t know what crosses the line when breaking these health code things and puts students in the position where they don’t even know. They could be doing something and not even realize that they’re breaking a rule and then get punished for it.”

Katie Camuso offered a different perspective, adding that she thinks “they used this sort of case-by-case basis in the fall, and that can get a little sticky, I think. But on the other side of it, I think it’s hard to give a definitive umbrella rule because every situation is different.”

bclark

Brendan W. Clark '21 is the current Editor-in-Chief of the Trinity Tripod, Trinity College's student newspaper.

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