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Tracking the Virus, Tracking Each Other: The COVID-19 Dashboard and Tip Line

Haverford’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has spawned a web of digital hubs, pages, and forms to keep the community connected and informed. Notable, however, are the COVID-19 Dashboard and the Health and Safety Concerns form (the latter of which is informally known as the “tip line”). While both of these pages have quickly become well-known among the student body, they have provoked very different conversations about open communication and campus dynamics.

The COVID-19 Dashboard features data on tests and positive results, active cases, and positivity rates; this information is broken down into categories based on students or faculty, type of screening, and even the date of reporting. Below the Dashboard, there is information on the current Bi-Co Mitigation Plan operational level, an explanation of Haverford’s testing strategy, and links to Tri-Co and regional testing data.

Most notably, the COVID-19 Dashboard was where the community first learned of the two positive cases that have been found on campus. Interim Dean of the College Joyce Bylander sent an email notifying the student body of these cases several hours after they were published to the Dashboard. This email stated that future positive cases would not result in a notification email, and directed the community to keep an eye on twice-weekly data inputs on the Dashboard.

For students, the COVID-19 Dashboard has made Haverford’s efforts to stop the spread of the virus seem more transparent and accessible. Jared Saef ’24 finds it to be a comforting resource, writing over email, “For my own health and safety, I enjoy checking the COVID dashboard every few days. It’s a simple way to understand the safety of our campus community.”

The tip line, on the other hand, has raised concerns over whether it is compatible with the college’s core values of personal responsibility and restorative justice. The form is accessible on the home page of Haverford Engage, and is intended for students to report information, recommendations, or infractions related to the COVID-19 policies directly to the college’s administration. Although reports can be submitted anonymously, students are encouraged to leave a name in case a follow-up is necessary.

In an interview with The Clerk, Dean Bylander said that the form has been “very useful” in highlighting issues such as prohibited people accessing campus, contractors not wearing masks, lack of social distancing in the Dining Center lines, and gatherings exceeding attendance limits.

By mid September, the tip line had already received more than 100 submissions, and Dean Bylander stated that administration had “responded to every single tip [they’ve] gotten.” She also stated that the college “let some contractors go” after receiving tips about a lack of mask-wearing.

However, the tip line’s main focus—and its controversial nature—lies in the ability to report individuals for specific violations. The explanation above the form encourages naming “the people involved” in the report so the college can “helpfully take action.” It also acknowledges Haverford’s practice of confrontation, stating, “In the spirit of mutual respect across our community, we invite our fellow students, faculty, and staff to respectfully raise concerns with each other, when they see them.”

While confrontation is usually associated with breaches of the Honor Code, it should be noted that Honor Council will not be involved in the enforcement of COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.

The college administration has repeatedly encouraged students to use the tip line. In an email, Dean of Student Engagement & Divisional Initiatives Mike Elias requested that students name policy violators through the online form, as the college had often been unable to identify risky behavior due to a lack of details; he then went on to state that the administration would do their “absolute best” to conceal the identity of the reporting student. In the same email, Elias also stated that students should call Campus Safety if they “notice a large party or behavior that is unsafe or concerning,” as the tip line is only monitored during business hours.

Furthermore, training materials provided to Customs team members via email instructed them to tell their first-years that Haverford “expects to be informed about inappropriate events or occurrences on campus,” and the reporting form should be used “unapologetically.”

The student reception of the tip line has been mixed; some have praised its ability to keep the community safe and members accountable, while others have said it inherently conflicts with Haverford’s values of self-governance.

Aidan Hutchinson ’23 articulated his concerns over email, writing, “The people that were already acting safely will likely continue such behavior, while those who weren’t will now endeavor to hide their actions from the wider community as not to get caught by their peers […] While employing disciplinary action towards those who frequently put the community at risk is important, encouraging secret policing throughout the Haverford student body is the wrong way to go about it.”

The administration has repeatedly touted the tip line’s usefulness in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Dean Bylander said that while she has spoken with several students reported through the tip line, only one individual had been issued an official warning letter as of late September. She also warned that Haverford was prepared to take much more severe action, saying, “egregious behavior just needs to be separated from the college, period.

One Comment

  1. Drew October 20, 2020

    Just a quick note about the Covid-19 dashboard. The categories are student and employee (not exclusively faculty). The staff are being tested and are included in the data.

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