U. Virginia cracking down on gatherings after launch of reporting portal

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The University of Virginia has cracked down on health policy violations with the help of an online portal that allows people to report social behaviors that could promote the spread of COVID-19.

The new system, launched last month, was designed for students and residents in the surrounding community to help the university enforce compliance with policies that will protect the health and safety of students, faculty, staff and community members from virus outbreaks.

“Effective enforcement relies on commitment by students, faculty, and staff to remind one another of appropriate policies and guidelines, and to hold one another accountable. Acting as engaged bystanders to support and assist members of our shared community is the necessary first step in the University’s accountability process,” the portal’s home page reads.

The portal included two forms, one for students, faculty and staff and another for community members not affiliated with the university who live in the area surrounding UVA, that can be submitted to alert the university of infractions of heath guidelines and unsafe social behaviors, like parties or events not following social distancing or face covering guidelines, Wesley Hester, a UVA spokesperson, told EdScoop.

In addition to a written statement, individuals reporting infractions may also submit photographs or other attachments.

So far, the university has received approximately 40 reports from residents and community members, and 28 from student, faculty and staff, though many of the reports are duplicates for the same event from different reporters, and some are from outside the university’s jurisdiction, Hester said.

Reports that come through the portal, he added, are directed to the appropriate office and reviewed to determine if any follow-up action is required.

“Those [reports] relating to concerns about employees are reviewed by employee relations staff, and those pertaining to students are viewed by the office for student affairs,” he said.

University leaders said they hope the portal will encourage students and community members to self-police minor infractions and assist university officials to address more major violations.

“As always, we hope that the majority of minor infractions will be addressed through bystander intervention and education in the moment,” Hester said.

The university has already forced two of its fraternity and sorority organizations to cancel all organized in-person activities over concerns that students were not following university requirements that all students wear face coverings in public, follow physical-distancing norms and gather only in groups of 15 or fewer.

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