At the front line of ensuring accountability as campus reopens for spring 2021 is a set of guidelines called the University of Redlands COVID-19 Safety Pledge and Expectations. All students who might engage with the university community are required to abide by the Pledge, whether they are living in residential halls, commuting to campus, or briefly visiting.
The approximately 600 students who have moved to campus for the semester were required to consent to the Pledge after receiving complementary training.
Key takeaways from the Pledge
An overarching theme of the document is the emphasis on individual responsibility for the community’s safety, keeping oneself and others accountable for following the established guidelines. The university calls for everyone’s cooperation in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on campus.
“No matter what you personally think of the pandemic, about its seriousness or the appropriate ways to mitigate risk, by agreeing to live and/or study in a community you have a responsibility to that community,” the Pledge states.
The main headlines of the Pledge list out the expected behaviors of students, including wearing face coverings at all times, careful and constant handwashing, and distancing six feet apart from one another both indoors and outdoors.
Also explained in detail are specific protocols for U of R residential and on-campus activities, such as limitations to having guests. In addition to any household members, defined by the Pledge as anyone living with a student in close proximity, students are required to limit their close contacts to three fixed individuals.
Close contacts are defined as those who interact with a student at a distance fewer than six feet and without masks.
There are also instructions to participate in weekly testing, with a plan of action for students who test positive. Details about the initial quarantine period and subsequent testing, reporting, and isolation protocols can also be found in the document.
The terms above apply to all students, with the exception of student-athletes, who may have close contact with more people, but who will have “additional testing and behavioral expectations.”
Taking the Code of Community Standards as a baseline, the document warns of consequences for neglecting or violating the Pledge, including “temporary or permanent” removal from the university, even if the offense happened off campus.
In addition to the eight-page document, the content of the Pledge is communicated through a mandatory training session. The online course is broken into six modules and comprised of a series of videos under ten minutes, accompanied by several short multiple-choice questions on the content of the Pledge.
“If we hadn’t believed you were not up for this challenge, we would not be opening the residence halls, and faculty would not be teaching in classrooms,” Eddleman said in one of the videos.
Where the university currently stands
According to official communications from the university, there have been 25 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on campus, all but one of which were university employees. The first of these notices was sent on Sep. 28 under the subject “Redlands Campus Health Advisory,” part of the administration’s effort to adequately respond to the pandemic.
Among other responses from the university are a testing site, opened in collaboration with San Bernardino County to serve both university members and the wider community.
The UR Ready section of the University of Redlands app, a tool for health self-assessment, recently launched as well. Regular mass testing and contact tracing of the student body, key factors in the reopening success of some other universities last fall, will additionally take place.
As the spring semester begins, universities across the country are resuming in-person instruction, including nearby institutions in the University of California system. California currently has the second-highest rate of COVID-19 cases in the United States after Arizona.
Despite the start of vaccine distribution, total cases across the nation continue to rise. As of January 19, the United States has passed 24 million total cases, nearly doubling from its level in November.
With 400 thousand Americans having died from the virus, the total will soon surpass the number of Americans who died in World War II.
Image credited to Bulldog Photo Editor Kyle Eaton.