Colgate University sent students a memo encouraging them to report classmates who violate social-distancing guidelines and to include names so action could be taken. Similar instructions were sent out at schools across the country from the University of Colorado Boulder to the University of Pennsylvania. Yale University and some other colleges have hotlines in place for reports of risky activity.
It’s an extraordinary situation, and students face a quandary: Report parties to campus officials? Or keep quiet and hope for the best? As one freshman said at Hunter College, which has a dorm open even though classes are remote this semester: “I don’t know if I’d want to narc on people I’m trying to become friends with.”
For those in the middle of it, the choice is not as simple as they might have expected.
“Before coming here, I remember thinking ‘Yeah, I’ll definitely report people if they’re going to parties,’” said Kyle Duran, a freshman at Binghamton University in upstate New York. But after spending just a few days on campus, Mr. Duran had second thoughts. “It’s a lot harder to want to when you’re living and going to class with everyone.”
Some faculty members at schools have warned against asking students to police their peers. They have said doing so could disrupt student life when classmates are pitted against one other, particularly when the consequences for breaking the rules can be harsh.
SUNY Plattsburgh, for example, placed 43 students on interim suspension last week after a large outdoor gathering. Fifteen others at Marist College, a small liberal arts school in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., were recently sent home for not following rules at an off-campus party, while at Ohio State University, more than 200 have been suspended for similar reasons.
Ariana Rebello, a freshman at Hofstra University on Long Island, said hearing about those punishments at other schools has dissuaded her from attending parties, but also from reporting her classmates. “I don’t think I could bring myself to snitch. I just wouldn’t associate with them,” she said.