Headline, August 28 2020/ ''' STUDENTS : VIRUS POLICEMEN '''



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HUNDREDS OF AMERICAN COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES have opted to begin the fall semester at least partly in person, allowing some of or all all of their students onto campus and to live and study.

These schools are going to great lengths to impress upon students that their behavior determines whether campuses can stay open or whether they will have to head back to their parents homes by October.

In many cases, schools are requiring students to sign ''school contracts'' in which they promise not to party, have overnight dorm guests, walk across campus without masks or otherwise conduct themselves as college students normally do - not often attaching strict penalties if students violate the rules.

In addition to agreeing to conduct themselves according to these rules, students are also being asked to police one another for violating them.

College campuses have long monitored their students behavior to enforce various expectations, from attending class to completing assigned readings to sticking around football games. In the age of Covid-19, these forms of monitoring are intensifying - and students are being tasked with becoming surveillors themselves.

New York University, for example, implores students to ''politely urge'' the noncompliant to wear masks and social distance - and if they don't listen, to report the fellow students to higher-ups.

Tulane University urges students to ''hold your friends and peers accountable'' for having parties. The University of Nebraska at Omaha asks students to commit to ''discouraging large in-person group gatherings'' to help fight the virus.

Other schools are recruiting students as ''health ambassadors'' to ''utilize peer-to-peer influence'' and training them in bystander intervention techniques.

Many schools are setting up tip lines were students can anonymously report those who fail to wear masks or social distance, or asking students to use hotlines that were originally created to report issues like harassment and other misconduct. And if students eventually test positive for the virus -say, after attending an illicit social gathering - contract tracing protocols may require them to report others who broke the rules.

In many ways, it makes sense that universities are relying on students to be-the-eyes and ears of public health management. Students are much more likely than a dean or provost to know about what's really going on in the dorms and frat houses.

And providing an anonymous way for students to whistle-blow about unsafe conditions can certainly be a good thing, since it is unreasonable to expect all students to come forward publicly.

But there's a risk that these peer reporting systems may not be effective in controlling the spread of the Covid-19 on campus because they put students in very tough positions. Of course, many students understand the high stakes of a coronavirus outbreak and have a desire to help keep their communities safe.

Some students may feel a sense civic duty to participate in policing their classmates' behavior. But others may be loath to report on the friends, especially when doing so could result in harsh penalties. And students risk being socially ostracized if they are branded with the stigma of bring ''narc'' by their peers.

Students may find themselves weighing the complex burdens of playing a role in preserving public health against the potential personal costs of reporting.

We've seen this play out time and time again on college campuses, when students refusal to snitch on one another has impeded investigations of hazing practices and sexual violence.

And we've already seen similar dynamics unfold in the current pandemic - local officials have had to resort to subpoenas to get infected individuals to comply with contact tracing, and people have been targeted with threats and harassment for ''snitching'' to officials about noncompliant business practices.

In many cases university messaging encourages students to de-escalate and educate in their interactions with noncompliant peers - but tensions are high, and even adults don't always handle  these conflicts well.

Another risk is that peer reporting systems may have unintended consequences - especially when people use them for their own purposes.

The Honor and Serving of the Latest Global Operational Research on our Times, continues. The World Students Society thanks authors Karen Levy and Lauren Kilgour.

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of the world. See Ya all prepare and register for Great Global Elections on The World Students Society : wssciw.blogspot.com and Twitter - !E-WOW! - The Ecosystem 2011;

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