The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Vanderbilt sends notices to students suspected of violating COVID-19 policies in social media posts

The Office of Student Accountability has been reaching out to students caught violating the school’s coronavirus safety protocols in various social media posts.
Alexandra Venero
Kirkland Hall houses many of the Vanderbilt administrators. (Hustler Multimedia/Alexandra Venero)

Update: This article has been edited to reflect Adin McGurk’s position as a member of The Hustler staff and to correct the date upon which Noah Frank and Adin McGurk received an email from Student Accountability.

As students have returned to school, the Office of Student Accountability has been contacting students in violation of COVID-19 protocols as seen in students’ social media posts.

The school’s Return to Campus Plan states that students who participate in gatherings where they are not physically distanced and masked will be faced with a minimum one semester suspension and can even face expulsion “depending on the nature of and circumstances surrounding the violation.” 

Although the Return to Campus plan states that students who participate in gatherings where they are not physically distanced and masked could potentially face suspension, initial emails sent to students violating these guidelines thus far have been warnings with no disciplinary actions. Many of the emails sent to students who are believed to be violating the rules include warnings about further action if the students continue to ignore Vanderbilt’s policies.

In one such case, sophomores Noah Frank and Adin McGurk received emails from the Office of Student Accountability for appearing in a friend’s Snapchat story outside, on campus and unmasked. The school has set up a hotline for reporting students who are not following the school’s policies. McGurk is a Staff Writer for The Hustler.

Frank, McGurk and a friend were walking along 21st Avenue behind Wilson Hall when they stopped to take a photo, according to Frank. This photo was then reported by an unknown viewer to the school, and the three students received an email from Student Accountability the following morning on August 21. 

The email said that students should “review the applicable policies and take necessary measures to ensure you are in compliance with them.” 

Many people, including Frank, believe that this response was severe, given the fact that Frank and McGurk are roommates, both residing off campus, and were wearing masks prior to the photo. 

Frank also said he appreciated the school’s efforts to hold students accountable and safe. Frank said that he took issue with the idea that the school is encouraging its students to turn their peers in. 

“It just breaks trust within the student community,” Frank said.

Frank stated he and his other friends involved in the incident have reviewed the campus social distancing guidelines and will be more careful in the future. 

When reached for comment, the Office of Student Accountability referred The Hustler back to the Return to Campus plan and declined to comment on Frank’s specific situation.

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About the Contributor
Hayden Gee
Hayden Gee, Former Staff Writer
Hayden Gee is from Richmond, Virginia. He studied political science in the College of Arts and Science.
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Comments (5)

The Vanderbilt Hustler welcomes and encourages readers to engage with content and express opinions through the comment sections on our website and social media platforms. The Hustler reserves the right to remove comments that contain vulgarity, hate speech, personal attacks or that appear to be spam, commercial promotion or impersonation. The comment sections are moderated by our Editor-in-Chief, Rachael Perrotta, and our Social Media Director, Chloe Postlewaite. You can reach them at [email protected] and [email protected].
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Michael J
3 years ago

You call this journalism? Oh please.

Tony Stark
3 years ago

Students should follow the guidelines. But if you are concerned someone isn’t, why not talk to them about it directly instead of reporting them secretly? If you tell someone “Stop or I’m going to report you,” and then you do, there’s no loss of trust that leads to growing suspicion. You have respectful conversations, learn people’s opinions, and you behave accordingly. But *secretly* turning in your fellow students for minor infractions to the code gives me a Stasi vibe. Human connection is critical right now, and this kind of underhanded surveillance weakens community cohesion when it’s needed most.

Nicole Muszynski
3 years ago

Complaining about a slap on the wrist when they were in clear violation of rules meant to keep everyone healthy during a pandemic sounds very whiny and entitled, especially when the administration has been working their bums off all summer to ensure our safety. Harsh? Please.

Noah Frank
3 years ago

In regards to the above comment, you are absolutely right that community reporting is essential to Vandy’s reopening plan. I was more referring to reporting situations similar to my own—those which, while prohibited, are minor and virtually without-risk.

3 years ago

I’m not trying to nitpick or blow a statement out of proportion. However, the notion that community reporting “breaks trust within the student community” is deeply flawed and hinders the university’s ability to fight infection. I’ll be the first to throw Vanderbilt under the bus for their COVID response (raising tuition by that much during a pandemic and the worst economic meltdown in 70 years was fun), but holding students accountable is something the administration cannot do alone. I’m not familiar with Frank and McGurk’s scenario outside of what this article mentions, so I cannot speak in-depth about that. Though it is of note that the front headline for the Hustler today is the break-up of a 50-200 person, non-socially distanced gathering on Commons.
Community reporting doesn’t break the trust between students, violating the guidelines the CDC and Vanderbilt have established does. For myself and every one, this is literally a life and death issue. Many people, even beyond getting sick, do not have safe homes to go back to. Spending the last six months without a job and with an abusive family is not a fun thing to do. The only place I can avoid those things is on campus. Frankly, compliance with COVID guidelines should be 100%, regardless of how silly or harmless they seem. This pandemic is not a “snitches get stitches” scenario. The Vanderbilt community’s ability to hold each other accountable and create a safe environment is what builds my trust in the student body. I’m proud of the students who reported the gathering on Commons. They have my trust, the people who partied don’t. Again, not to say the situation mentioned in this article is the same, but given this piece was featured in the Weekly Digest, it is highly visible, and such a statement has a widespread impact. Be safe, for yourself and others.