Undergraduate students are overwhelmingly satisfied with Penn's COVID-19 testing program but concerned with peer behavior and enforcement of the University's COVID-19 guidelines, according to a survey conducted by The Daily Pennsylvanian.
The survey ran from Feb. 21 to Feb. 28 and garnered responses from 422 students, 55% of whom are living in on-campus housing and 37% of whom are living off campus in Philadelphia. It found that 88% of students said COVID-19 testing centers are efficient at administering tests and 84% of students said COVID-19 test results are easily accessible. Despite their confidence in the testing program, students remain concerned with their peers breaking COVID-19 regulations. About 70% of respondees said they believe their peers are not acting responsibly and over 71% said they know someone who has attended a gathering of over 10 people this semester. Indoor gatherings in private residences are currently permitted with only one other household besides one's own, according to city guidelines.
The poll asked students to rate how strongly they agreed or disagreed with a number of statements pertaining to campus life, peer behavior, COVID-19 testing, enforcement of campus policies, and the effectiveness of PennOpen Pass.
Students reported concerns over Penn's ability to discipline students who violate the Student Campus Compact, which outlines COVID-19 guideline compliance expectations for students living on and off campus. The Campus Compact focuses on four categories — health and wellness, campus movement, travel and guests, and social life and recreation — asking students to agree to a number of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including avoiding unnecessary travel, maintaining social distancing, and only congregating outdoors, at a distance and while wearing masks.
Only 9% of students said they are confident in Penn's ability to discipline students who violate the Campus Compact. Over 58% of students believe the Campus Compact should have stricter regulations.
First year students have reportedly been partying in college houses and breaking COVID-19 guidelines since the beginning of the semester. Many resident advisors and graduate associates have previously told the DP that they feel unsafe enforcing the Student Campus Compact and breaking up student gatherings.
Penn released a dashboard detailing over 250 reports of students violating the University's COVID-19 protocols that have been submitted to the Campus Compact Review Panel. The dashboard was released on Feb. 19 and will be updated monthly, Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé told the DP on Feb. 22.
Of reports that resulted in University intervention, 52% led to disciplinary sanctions, 33% led to educational interventions, and 14% led to campus restrictions.
The majority of students, however, still said they do not believe the consequences for noncompliance are clear enough.
In the freeform response section of the survey, many students said they wanted "greater transparency" from Penn regarding COVID-19 test results and that they would like to see the COVID-19 dashboard updated daily. Over 69% of students said the COVID-19 dashboard is not updated frequently enough. Penn currently updates the dashboard weekly on Tuesday mornings.
In early February, the undergraduate COVID-19 positivity rate peaked at 4.47% with 239 positive cases among undergraduates. Last week the University's weekly undergraduate COVID-19 positivity rate declined to 0.32% — the lowest weekly rate of the semester.
Over 44% of students also said they do not know where to report Student Campus Compact violations.
Any member of the Penn community can report an alleged violation of the Campus Compact to the Campus Compact Review Panel via a form, which can be found on the University's COVID-19 Wellness page. After the submission is received, the panel will determine whether it will address the violation directly, refer the violation to the Office of Student Conduct for disciplinary review, or dismiss it entirely.
As for Penn's COVID-19 policies, students are overwhelmingly supportive of the University's testing protocols.
Penn requires undergraduate students living on and off campus to schedule saliva-based COVID-19 screening testing twice a week on pre-assigned days. Graduate students and faculty living on campus must schedule screening testing twice a week on days of their choice, and off-campus graduate students and faculty who visit campus must be tested once a week.
The University provides students' test results between 24 and 48 hours after they test. Dubé and Chief Operating Officer for Wellness Services Erika Gross have told the DP throughout the spring semester that Penn's testing protocols and systems have "run smoothly and been very successful."
Dubé and Gross both emphasized that testing is only one part of public health guidelines, and said students must continue to wash their hands, socially distance, and wear a mask.
While students are supportive of testing protocols, many do not feel that PennOpen Pass is an effective tool in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Nearly 62% of students said it is not effective and only 11% said it is. PennOpen Pass is a web-based daily symptom checker and exposure reporting system for members of the Penn community which determines whether an individual is allowed inside University buildings.
Some students wrote in the freeform response section of the poll that they felt PennOpen Pass was not effective because they knew of peers who had created fake Open Passes. Last week, Penn added a randomly generated, three-digit alphanumeric code that changes each day to all green passes to prevent the use of fraudulent passes.
The survey was distributed through the DP's Facebook and Instagram accounts, the DP's daily newsletter, and on all four class Facebook pages and GroupMe group chats. The sample overrepresents first years, who constitute 42% of all respondents, and underrepresents seniors, who constitute 15% of all respondents. It also overrepresents students who identify as female, who constitute 72% of the sample but 53% of the student body.
The Daily Pennsylvanian Analytics Staff contributed reporting.
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