We all need to be held accountable - Denny Scott editorial
Earlier this month, 11 first-year students were dismissed from Northeastern University in Boston after they failed to follow physical distancing rules. Pending an expedited hearing where the students can protest their dismissal, the announcement states these 11 students were in violation of university and public health protocols that prohibit crowded gatherings and the students and their families will not receive any refund for the year.
The students were part of the N.U.in Program, which typically allows first-year students to study abroad. This year, however, the program changed and 818 students were staying in two-person rooms at the Westin Hotel in Boston.
“The students (and their parents) were notified Friday [Sept. 4] that they must vacate the Westin within [four] hours,” the school’s announcement read. “Before departing, they were required to undergo COVID-19 testing at Northeastern, with the understanding that anyone who tests positive will be moved into wellness housing at the university until they have recovered, in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“The students have been informed they are no longer part of the Northeastern community for the fall semester,” the announcement said.
Madeleine Estabrook, the school’s senior vice chancellor for student affairs, explained that the school expects everyone to take health and safety protocols very seriously and had, in a letter last month, said students who don’t follow the university’s rules “can expect removal from the community, including the immediate loss of university housing”.
The dismissal means that, pending that expedited review, the students and their families could be out $36,000 per student.
The move makes sense as post-secondary schools across the United States are facing huge surges of COVID-19 cases following the first weeks of opening.
As a matter of fact, Deanna Schwartz, managing editor of Northeastern University’s student newspaper, The Huntington News, says that many students agree with the move.
“They think it was perfectly fair, citing that, you know, we all signed a contract, and we were warned plenty of times of the rules,” she said in an interview with National Public Radio (NPR). “These students put the entire community and city at risk.”
She said that, in her experience, parents of students at the school are also “overwhelmingly pleased” with the move, and praise the school for “coming down strong”, though she said that could be because these parents don’t believe their children would ever be caught in a similar situation to the 11 students being dismissed.
The message being sent by the move is just as important as the move itself. The school has proven it will follow through with the warning it has issued, so others shouldn’t make the same mistake these 11 did.
We need this kind of action to continue outside of the schools to hammer home how important it is that people follow rules like physical distancing. Without that strong message, students will go to parties, they will get sick and they will infect their families, friends, peers and the community.
Despite all the above logic that justifies dismissing the 11 students, given that they were duly warned of the consequences of their actions, there are still people who are arguing that the school isn’t being fair.
They point to the dollar amount or to the finality of the decision (though, again, it can be appealed) or the fact that, apparently, there is no tuition assistance for the program, as a reason the school shouldn’t be “coming down hard” on these students.
Those people are, in a single word, wrong. That kind of weak-willed attitude of only applying the rules when it doesn’t really inconvenience people is what is going to make this pandemic continue on longer than it needs to and put more and more people at risk.
Everyone needs to be held accountable. If you aren’t following the rules, you need to be punished and that is especially true when your actions could infect hundreds of people living in tight quarters.
We all know people who don’t take the rules seriously to varying degrees, and, if we’re really honest, we’re likely all guilty of skirting a rule or three. However, we’re in the middle of a pandemic and following rules designed to stop a deadly plague from taking even more lives just makes sense.
It also makes sense to punish those who decide the rules don’t apply to them and to do so to the full extent of the law (or the contract, in this case) to deter others from making the same decisions.
So I, for one, applaud Northeastern’s administration for sticking to its guns and for making an example out of people who put the safety and health of others secondary to wanting to hang out. I wish more organizations, including our local legal system, would follow suit.