After hearing about COVID-19 outbreaks at universities like University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Notre Dame, Holly Taylor, Lehigh’s director of the Office of Student Conduct, didn’t think Lehigh would have students on campus past Labor Day.
But as of Aug. 31, Lehigh is reporting zero on-campus COVID-19 cases and four off-campus cases.
“I’m super impressed with our students right now,” Taylor said. “Most of our students are doing the right thing, or trying to do the right thing.”
To ensure safety, Lehigh is requiring masks to be worn in all public spaces or areas where social distancing cannot be maintained. Students living on-campus are not supposed to visit or host guests from other residence halls, and students living in off-campus housing are restricted to gatherings of 10 people or less.
Taylor said that, as of Sept. 3, there have been 118 student conduct cases flagged as COVID-related. That’s a jump from the 15 COVID-related conduct cases The Brown and White had reported on Aug. 21 — before classes had officially started.
“Most of these are really low level cases, like a first-year student who needed to be reminded to wear a mask when they entered a residence hall,” Taylor said. “There have only been four cases of students who violated their quarantine in some way.”
Lehigh students are holding each other accountable, reporting violations using both the university’s Google form and through social media. Excluding Gryphons,Taylor said the majority of COVID violations have been reported via the Google form. Some reports have been anonymous, while others have had a name attached.
Taylor said, in addition to students being reported, faculty and staff have been reported through the community form as well.
The Instagram account @lehighunmasked, run by an anonymous source, encourages students to submit COVID-19 violations seen on and off-campus, which the account then reposts.
@lehighunmasked did not respond to The Brown and White’s request for comment. The account does not appear to be affiliated with the university.
The account’s first post was of a group of six women walking outdoors, none in masks. The post received 238 likes and 109 comments.
“When I was looking at the comments [on the post], people were saying, ‘I believe this isn’t right because they’re taking pictures of people without asking for consent,’” said Abi Santiago, ‘23. “But to me, that seemed a little hypocritical because we’re asking people not to party, and they’re doing exactly the opposite.”
Artem Maryanskyy, ‘23, does not think the account will be effective in changing peoples’ behavior.
“If I were the person who was being recorded this way, I would be extremely frustrated and disappointed,” Maryanskyy said. “I wouldn’t have the opinion like, ‘Oh, they posted my picture, now I need to take a look at my way of living, and I have to wear a mask.’”
Taylor said she loves the idea of a student-led initiative to encourage masks and social distancing, but she doesn’t know if the social media account is helping the issue.
“The concerning piece is that there were definitely some comments in there that were borderline, or maybe not even borderline,” she said. “Some of the comments were pretty sassy and unnecessary to each other.”
Taylor said with so much of Lehigh’s student body living off-campus this year, she wants to remind students that the Code of Conduct still applies and gives Lehigh jurisdiction to act on off-campus issues.
And she said while Lehigh Police is available to help, Taylor said LUPD is not the mask police or the COVID police.
“When they go to houses, it’s because either we got a COVID reporting form that shows something going on that they can go address, or they got a noise complaint or something,” Taylor said. “They’re not just cruising South Bethlehem waiting to see something go down.”