Boston University has begun requiring students to show a digital badge indicating they’re up to date with COVID-19 testing and symptom screening to gain entry to campus dining halls, libraries, and other facilities, school officials said.
BU officials said the policy, which went into effect Thursday, was necessary due to “declining compliance” and a “worrisome increase in the daily numbers of cases of the virus among our student body, as well as our staff, over the last week.”
In a letter posted Tuesday on the university’s website, Boston University president Robert A. Brown and Kenneth Elmore, associate provost and dean of students, reminded students they must also continue to follow protocols for testing, screening, and social distancing, as well as be ready to show the badges on their phones.
“We hope this will be a reminder to everyone of the importance of daily symptom attestation and testing for keeping our campus safe,” they wrote.
According to a report in BU Today, a dozen students were suspended after they participated in at least one of three parties held Oct. 3 at off-campus residences in Allston. Five others who attended the parties were placed on deferred suspension for the rest of the academic year, according to the report.
University officials told BU Today that mask-wearing and social distancing were disregarded at the parties, and that a physical assault occurred at one when one student threw a beer can that ricocheted off a building and into another student. Officials said there was no evidence any of the students involved had COVID-19 or that the coronavirus was spread at any of the three parties.
The digital badges are not new; students and employees at BU have been using them since the start of the semester. But they will now need to be shown to access the dining halls, libraries, the George Sherman Union, and other spaces on campus, officials said in the letter.
According to the COVID-19 policies posted on Boston University’s website, students who are up to date with testing and daily screening receive a green-colored badge that appears on their mobile device. Students who test positive for COVID-19 receive a red “isolation” badge; those who who have been in close contact with someone who is positive or if they answered yes to their daily symptom screening receive an orange “quarantine” badge. Students who need to get tested or have not completed their daily symptom screenings get a yellow “overdue” badge.
Faculty can ask students to show their badges prior to starting class. Students who are unable to produce a green badge may be asked to leave class.
“You should not return to that class session, and must resolve any issues you have with testing or attestation before attending the next in-person class,” the website states. “If you refuse to leave the class, the faculty member will inform the class that they will not proceed with instruction until you leave the room. If you still refuse to leave the room, the faculty member will dismiss the class and contact your academic Dean’s office for follow up.”
In their Tuesday letter, Brown and Elmore wrote that over the previous seven days the university had seen the largest number of new cases since the final week of move-in back in August. As of Wednesday, 34 BU students who tested positive were in isolation, and 108 had recovered from the virus.
“From our analysis of our cases, we know that a critically important driver for our increasing infection rate is the number of social gatherings (on and off campus), as well as personal travel and off-campus visits with family and friends where participants do not adhere to physical distancing and mask-wearing," the letter states.