As a reflection of the changing rules and norms of a semester overhauled by the pandemic, each student that arrived to campus in late August not only had to abide by Yale’s Undergraduate Regulations — which govern student conduct every year — but also the community compact, a new set of policies drafted to ensure that student behavior aligns with public health standards in Connecticut.
The University also created a new regulatory body, the Community Compact Review Committee, to enforce the compact. The committee consists of a representative of the COVID-19 coordinator, a dean of the student’s school and a second school administrator, according to the Yale Community Compact Enforcement page. Students with alleged infractions would be brought before the committee.
In practice, though, three first-year counselors interviewed by the News indicated that the actual enforcement of the compact also depended on decisions made on a residential college-to-college basis. Though general compliance with the compact kept the University’s few outbreaks at bay, more than 150 students were referred to the committee this semester, according to Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd.
“The fundamental reason for the community compact is that this semester is unique, and we do need students and the whole community to cooperate with the public health and safety guidelines,” Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun told the News. “We wanted to do it in a way that was proactive, positive and educational, and not in a punitive and disciplinary way. The compact is trying to strike that balance.”
According to Boyd, the students referred to the committee during the fall semester were largely from the class of 2024. However, “a much larger number” of other students were referred to public health coordinators — graduate and professional students who served as COVID-19 pandemic college support staff — deans or heads of college for educational conversations after “more minor” violations.
Students who are reported to the committee for violations receive a letter that includes an incident report documenting the alleged violation. Students then have 24 hours to provide a response to the committee explaining their behavior. The committee then reviews the initial report and the student’s statement, and after considering all of the information, the committee determines whether or not the student’s actions violated the language of the community compact. If a student is found to have violated the compact, the committee will issue an outcome based on the nature of the violation.
On-campus social gatherings in residential college suites that exceeded the 10-person maximum gathering size set by the University constituted the most common violations to the compact, added Boyd. Other frequent violations included missing seven or more required daily health checks — after receiving reminder communications from administrators — or failing to wear face coverings.
The most frequent disciplinary action for students found to have violated the compact include administrative warnings and a required meeting with a public health adviser. In the meetings students would discuss the incident with a staff member as a means of promoting public health education and motivating the students to follow the Compact, according to Boyd.
A smaller proportion of students faced more punitive measures. According to Boyd, some students were barred from hosting guests in their residential space for a designated time frame, and others were restricted from accessing parts of campus over a predetermined duration of time, depending on the nature of their infraction.
And students who repeatedly violated the compact had to pack up and go home.
“After multiple violations, a relatively small number of students had their access to campus rescinded,” Boyd wrote to the News.
At the beginning of the semester, several FroCos expressed doubts about the University’s community compact enforcement mechanisms and confusion about their role in that process. Now, several months later, three FroCos detailed their approaches to the semester’s challenges.
Marty Chandler ’21, a FroCo in Ezra Stiles College, noted that the degree of compact enforcement differs across residential colleges — which he attributed to relationships between first years and FroCos and social culture within colleges as well as whether colleges were located in a highly trafficked area.
One FroCo, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to fear of retribution, added that her team of FroCos decided to intentionally foster their relationships with first years outside of simply enforcing the compact.
“Our relationship with students is intentionally not focused on us policing them,” she said.
Another FroCo, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, added that while FroCos expect the Compact to be followed, they are not “hall monitors” and should not have to be “up in everyone’s business 24/7.”
Part of the power of the compact, the FroCo noted, is that a social stigma trails those who have broken it, incentivizing students to follow the compact. At the same time, the FroCo said, “Snitches are not viewed in the best light, necessarily.”
Boyd explained that the University will review the compact this month to determine whether any amendments should be made before the spring semester. However, according to Chun, while the language of the compact likely will not change, the enforcement and education of the compact are “things [the University] can still work on.”
Chun explained that although there were a lot of “low grade violations,” and the majority of them were addressed through educational conversations, the University can continue to work on helping students understand what the compact is so that violations do not occur in the first place. “Ultimately, I think we got as far as we did this semester because students really care about their neighbors and the community, so really it boils down to that,” Chun said. “You will naturally feel comfortable following the guidelines when you think about others. I am grateful that things were not worse than they were in the fall. But I’m ambitious, I’m competitive and I want things to be even better when [the sophomores] are back in the spring.”
The first day of classes in the spring term is Feb. 1.
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