SIU develops confidential COVID-19 reporting system

By Sara Wangler, Staff Reporter

SIU has developed an anonymous system for students to report suspected cases of COVID-19 to SIU’s Department of Public Safety.

The reporting form was created as another way to keep the university safe, according to Chief of SIU’s Department of Public Safety Benjamin Newman. 

“We established that form and other resources to report potential exposures and issues relative to COVID-19 for our campus community,” Newman said. 

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Newman said after each form is submitted, health officials are notified. 

“In the event you submit a form entry on yourself and indicate that you are positive, since you are a student who lives in Jackson County, we would notify the Jackson County Health Department and coordinate to help with contact tracing,” Newman said. 

On many occasions, the health department is already aware of a case, Newman said. 

“It allows us the opportunity to figure out where a person who has tested positive has been on campus and to ensure cleaning and notification protocols if needed,” Newman said. 

When filling out the form there are options available that specify whether or not one is reporting a student, supervisor, employee, instructor or other and whether or not you are reporting yourself, a student, an employee or someone else. 

The person filling out the form must specify why they are reporting someone and whether or not they are reporting someone who received a positive test result, a person who has symptoms and has not been tested or is waiting on test results, a person who has been exposed to someone who received a positive test result and an option called “unknown.”

 The form can be accessed on SIU’s website or found here.

According to Newman the form could be abused.

“With this being an online service the opportunity to abuse the form could arise, but we haven’t had any problems so far,” Newman said. 

SIU has adapted its student conduct code to include and specify student’s responsibilities during the pandemic. 

A recent press release about these changes said some of the new offenses include “failure to wear a face mask in public or in a university classroom, failure to social distance, attending, holding, or sponsoring a gathering with an attendance greater than permitted by law and university guidelines” and “failure to isolate or quarantine as ordered by a public health official or the university,” Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Lori Stettler said.

Depending on the situation, failure to abide by these rules may result in expulsion. Along with SIU, the city of Carbondale has implemented a fine for not wearing a mask; fines can reach upwards of $750. 

Our goal is to make sure they know they are accountable for following through,” Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Stettler said. “We have a range of options for students who are referred to our Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, which oversees the disciplinary process. First and foremost, a student has a right to due process, when they can accept responsibility or opt for a hearing.” 

Stettler said after the from is completed, it goes to her and Newman.

“The Chief works with the Jackson County Public Health Department to contract trace.  I share the appropriate information with the Dean of Students who handles it from a Saluki Cares perspective,” Stettler said.

Saluki cares will partner with the Student Health Center to determine students’ testing options, Stettler said. 

“The Student Health Center provides medical care to students who are symptomatic and those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19,” Stettler said.

The form was designed to help students, not be punitive, Stettler said. 

“Each report that is filed by the student themselves or by someone who believes an exposure has occurred, will be evaluated individually,” Stettler said. “Given the seriousness of the virus, I would hope that no one would want to risk spreading the virus by refusing to be tested.  We all share in the responsibility to conduct ourselves in ways that minimize the spread of the virus.” 

Students and SIU community members took to the Daily Egyptian Facebook page to express their concerns about the process. 

“That seems like it could get out of hand very quickly, some people are going to jump the gun and make others’ lives a living hell,” Andrea Green a SIU alumnus said. 

For more information about SIU’s COIVD-19 plan visit here.

Visit the DE’s Facebook page to see more student and community reactions to this new process. 

Staff reporter Sara Wangler can be reached at swangler@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter at @sara_Wangler. To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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