By Camille Cox | Staff Writer
Mimicking last year’s incentive to get students tested and vaccinated, the Baylor COVID-19 compliance policy takes away students’ Wi-Fi if they fail to get tested twice weekly or upload their vaccination card.
According to the policy statement released by Baylor, “students who fail to test twice a week in any given week will have their campus Wi-Fi privileges disabled for the entire week.”
Dr. Sharra Hynes, associate vice president and dean of students in the division of Student Life, explained that this protocol is not entirely new to Baylor’s procedures.
“We did use the removal of Wi-Fi privileges as part of our plan last spring, so this is not a new thing we’re trying out,” Hynes said. “What’s different this year is that we are not using what I would call ‘an escalation strategy.’”
Hynes explained this is necessary so that students understand how important weekly testing is to those who fit in that category.
“We felt the need to have some sort of measure in place that would accompany if students do not comply,” Hynes said.
Houston junior Grant Gill lost his Wi-Fi on Monday after failing to report to weekly testing the week before.
“I got my Wi-Fi taken away after not getting tested, but I didn’t get tested because I got the vaccine and forgot to report to the university that I had been vaccinated,” Gill said.
After losing Wi-Fi, Gill immediately uploaded his vaccine card to alert the COVID-19 management team that he is complying with the protocol.
“I uploaded the card yesterday (Wednesday) and got my wifi back today (Thursday),” Gill said. “There was a one-day period in between that I didn’t have my Wi-Fi, and the school knew I was vaccinated.”
Hynes explained that the university has a process in store if a student has their Wi-Fi taken away and proceeds to upload their vaccine card afterwards; the university works to verify their information within the same week.
“We do have a restoration process that we are using,” Hynes said. “If we receive someone’s information — either proof of a positive test within the last 180 days to show they are convalescing or someone’s record that they have been fully vaccinated — then, even prior to the following week, we have been able to restore their Wi-Fi.”
Hynes said that they had more than 300 students on Wednesday who fell into the category of losing Wi-Fi after forgetting or failing to upload proof that they are exempt from the policy, but those students then had their Wi-Fi restored.
“I think there’s a better way to go about doing this,” Grant said. “We live in an age now where practically everything correlated is online, and not everybody is going to have the benefit of using a hotspot or living off campus and using different Wi-Fi to get work done. If you’re a freshman and you don’t have access to a hotspot and you lose your Wi-Fi, you’re kind of screwed. So, I think there’s a better way Baylor could go about incentivizing their students to get vaccinated. Do I know the solution? No. But I don’t think it has to do with Wi-Fi.”
In response to students who may not like the policy, Hynes reminded them that whether or not they agree, they must comply.
“It’s absolutely OK that they don’t like it and they don’t agree,” Hynes said. “There are times that I may not like the speed limit that’s posted in my neighborhood, but it is expected of me that I follow that. It’s OK if I don’t like it, but I have to also accept that if I don’t abide by that policy there will be things removed.”
While students may disagree with Baylor’s protocol to disable Wi-Fi privileges if they fail to comply, they must follow the rules that the university has put in place to ensure the safety and health of others.
“As an institution, we have a responsibility not only for the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff but also to the great neighbors to our Waco community,” Hynes said.