WCU to enforce mask policy

Originally published in The Sylva Herald on Aug. 27, 2020. 

BaShaun Smith, Western Carolina University’s associate vice chancellor and dean of students, has announced that students may face WCU Code of Student Conduct Violations if mask requirements are not followed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Shared community standards remind us that we each have personal responsibility for actions that may affect our own health and the health of our friends, colleagues, and the broader campus community,” Smith said.

Face coverings are required in the following settings:

• All classrooms and indoor instructional spaces (labs, simulation rooms, etc.).

• Walking inside any campus building.

• Any other public indoor setting where physical distancing isn’t possible.

• Walking outside on campus in the company of others where physical distancing isn’t possible.

Face coverings are recommended in the following settings:

• Alone in a private office.

• Alone or with a roommate in a residence hall room.

• Walking on campus with others and physical distancing can be maintained.

• In any outdoor public setting where physical distancing from others can be maintained.

Students who choose not to follow these standards will possibly face WCU Code of Student Conduct charges. A first report would result in a warning letter. A second report would require a meeting with Department of Student Community Ethics Hearing Officer and possibly a $50 fine, or educational sanction.

A third report would mean another meeting and possible probation, a $100 fine and educational sanction. A fourth report might lead to a $100 fine, removal from housing, campus restrictions and suspension/expulsion from WCU.

An individual whose non-compliance creates a community health/safety risk may be charged with failure to comply or acts of endangerment on any level of offense.

According to the Code of Student Conduct, an educational sanction is defined as “participating in a specific activity, course, event, or program, receiving specific instruction, completing a research/reflective assignment, etc. The respondent is responsible for related expenses.”

The campus restrictions consequence can include the denial of privileges such as event attendance, facilities, non-academic activities and interpersonal contact restrictions.

Student Will Borstelmann inquired via Instagram how students can report violations.

“Code of Conduct reports can be made by anyone (faculty, staff, students, community members) for any behavioral concern on or off-campus (anywhere), according to WCU’s Instagram @western_carolina. “The form for this can be found at dsce.wcu.edu and clicking the ‘Report Now’ button. Our expectation also is that Catamounts hold one another accountable.”

Smith wants students to take note that reports of violations are not solely taken as fact.

“All of our students have a right to due process and will be able to share their side of the story during the conduct meeting,” Smith said. “Just because someone is documented, that does not mean they will be found responsible.”

He also wants to ease the minds of students who fear their rights are being infringed upon.

“I also would say that it is important to remember that individual rights are balanced against the individual rights of others, and the rights of the community as a whole, or what is known as the common good,” he said.

Even when some question the legality of these policies, WCU stands by them.

“The university’s legal counsel believes that these policies comply with all relevant laws and policies,” WCU spokesman Bill Studenc said. “WCU will be enforcing its policies through traditional employment directives and through the Code of Student Conduct.”

For more information on WCU’s community standards, visit info.wcu.edu/catamountscare.