Baylor misses golden opportunity with COVID-19 dashboard

Photo Courtesy of Baylor University COVID-19 Dashboard | Modified by Matthew Muir

Despite being labelled “a success,” the return to campus has been fraught with cases of COVID-19. Last week, 408 positive tests were recorded. And as of Sunday, there were 456 active cases. Most of the cases — at least those recorded as of last Tuesday, originated from off-campus activities.

To keep the situation from spiraling out of control, Baylor implemented strict policies in the lead up to the fall semester to curtail the spread of the virus. Most notably, the university threatened students who failed to obey these policies with suspension or expulsion, and student organizations faced suspension or the removal of their charter for violations. This is absolutely the right reaction, but if Baylor’s administration really wants to send a message, it should go even farther.

Enter the Baylor University COVID-19 Dashboard, a.k.a. the University’s official home for coronavirus data. Here, all the essential stats are available — active cases, total tests and the 7-day positivity rate. If Baylor wants students to know that the institution is not messing around, it should also be home to a tally of COVID-19 protocol infractions.

The Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, commonly known as FIJI, already felt the wrath of Baylor when it was suspended for hosting off-campus parties. Numerous students were placed in an interim suspension status. Yet this headline news was tucked at the bottom of a message from vice president of student life Dr. Kevin Jackson. The student organization was not named, nor was the number of students on interim suspension disclosed in the message. This was after it was also confirmed in the message that a student at one of the parties tested positive for COVID-19.

You’d think if Baylor was truly serious about keeping campus safe it would be screaming this news from the rooftops – or at least making its publicization a higher priority. Instead, students and staff receive abstract language like “several students.”

Show us these numbers. Give us a public breakdown of warnings, suspensions, expulsions and other disciplinary actions, and put it all on the COVID-19 dashboard. This isn’t asking for individual students to be named and shamed – it would actually be a really bad idea to do that – but it is absolutely asking for the message to be sent that students are being disciplined, and anyone who continues to put others at risk could very well be next. And in the case of student organizations, if their actions are severe enough to warrant suspension, they are absolutely severe enough for the university to tell us exactly what is happening.