A passerby walks through WMU's Sangren Hall.

A passerby walks through an almost empty Sangren Hall on Friday March 13.  

In the midst of a pandemic, what it looks like to be a student at WMU has greatly changed in the last year. With the Safe Return Plan now being in full effect for about three weeks, students have mixed reviews as to how the policies are being enforced. 

Students were told if they see any WMU student violating the Safe Return Plan, on- and off-campus, they can email Nicole Albee, Director of Student Conduct, and the office would address the concern. With so much uncertainty this year, students are wondering what WMU is doing to enforce the Safe Return Plan.

On Aug. 28, the WMU Student Code of Conduct was  updated so that students will face consequences, including suspension, if they fail to comply with the Safe Return Plan. The Office of Student Conduct enforces sanctions to any student who does not comply with the Student Conduct. 

“Sanction determination is based on a number of factors and there is definitely no one size fits all approach,” Albee said. “Certainly someone who hosts a large gathering would be expected to have a different outcome than someone who attends that gathering, though both students are in violation of our expectations.”

With most of the spread of COVID-19 on college campuses being through off-campus gatherings, Albee affirms the office is still in full authority to impose sanctions for any student violations that don't happen on school property.

“Our office has the ability to pursue the conduct process irrespective of whether the allegation is on- or off- campus,” Albee said. “While there is not a difference for our office's role, the immediate response in the moment looks a bit different for on campus versus off campus situations. We receive information after police respond so we are able to follow up from a conduct perspective.”

In addition to imposing on sanctions to students, the university has also implemented a few other safety features, one of those being the daily health screening badges. 

Students were instructed to fill out a health survey everyday before returning to campus, which will give you a “badge” that will tell you if you are cleared to come to campus or if you should isolate. It was encouraged that everyone filled out the health survey before class. Faculty members can also ask to see badges before students walk into the room.  

Many students questioned the policy because the badges weren't always being enforced in the academic buildings and by faculty members.

“It depends on the building,” said Diane Anderson, Vice President for Student Affairs . “For faculty members, it’s up to them and their comfort level or how they want to manage their classroom.”

Anderson stated that in buildings that many students use daily the badges are required, like the Student Recreation Center or dining halls. But this may not be enforced in every class because the professors are able to make that choice themselves.

“It’s not uniform across campus, that is meant to be a tool and the more people who use it the better,” she said.

Anderson said that she completely understands that not everyone will agree with the decisions the administration makes.

“We are not going to make everybody happy and that’s kind of a given, because people have very different perspectives on what we should and should not be doing.” Anderson said. “So we are doing the very best we can to be very thoughtful and working with the county health department to make our decisions.”

Overall, Anderson said she completely understands that students will have their concerns and encourages students to address those concerns with administration. She also expressed her pride in how students have been handling the situation.

“I see the great majority of people doing the right thing and being thoughtful and considerate of others and I’m just really pleased,” she said. “There’s a learning curve for everybody, we are all learning as we go. This is just one of those things where everyone needs to be a part of the solution.”

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