Washington State University
To Our Colleagues
We know that the increasing presence of COVID-19 in our community is concerning.

While WSU encouraged students not to return to Pullman, many did. The small, ruralness of our community is wonderful and, at the same time, lays bare the increased risks associated with a global pandemic.

Our students were aware that the return to campus came with health precautions and guidelines. We see students abiding by these standards when participating in recreation activities, eating in our dining centers and in the day-to-day life of the few students living in our residence halls. However, we also know this positive decision making does not remain consistent when students return to their off-campus homes.

Our Center for Community Standards in the Division of Student Affairs receives reports of these incidents where students do not observe guidelines and responds according to the severity and persistence of the event. Focusing on behavior change, we are striving to maintain the health and safety of our entire Coug Community.

We invite you to learn more about our response to COVID-19 and overall conduct process. We’ll address community standards related to COVID-19 precautions as well as issues of academic integrity and classroom disruption in a remote learning environment.
Panel: Community Standards during a Global Pandemic
Wednesday, September 23 | 4:00–5:00 p.m.
Livestreaming at experience.wsu.edu
  • Dr. Dave Turnbull (moderator), Professor of Music and Faculty Senate Chair
  • Dr. Jill Creighton (host), Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students
  • Karen Metzner, Director for the Center for Community Standards
  • Dr. Dee Posey, Clinical Associate Professor and Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies, Psychology, and Chair of the Academic Integrity Hearing Board
  • Dr. Phil Mixter, Clinical Associate Professor, School of Molecular Biosciences and Chair of the Academic Integrity Hearing Board

We hope you will join us for this important dialogue. We each play a role in the maintenance of our community standards. In advance of the conversation, we’ve outlined some of our procedures and addressed some of your most recent questions below.

Jill L. Creighton, D.P.A., Ed.M
Associate Vice President & Dean of Students

Karen Metzner
Director of the Center for Community Standards
Why aren’t we expelling or suspending students?

Expelling or suspending students does not achieve our desired outcomes of public health compliance. Because we are already in a distance learning environment, suspending or expelling students will not likely remove students from our Pullman community. We can limit access to campus property as a result of the Community Standards process, but cannot limit access to private, off-campus property. We also know this type of punitive action can delay educational attainment, increase student debt and have other long-term negative consequences.

The Washington Administrative Code (WAC)requires a formal University Conduct Board Hearing for a student to become suspended or expelled from the University. During these hearings, students have the right to receive notice of their alleged violations, to view all the information in their record, to respond to the allegations, to appeal the decision, and to be formally represented by an attorney. Students navigating this process will likely remain in the Pullman community until a final decision is reached.

While suspension or expulsion is a tool that we can use for repeated egregious violations, such as hosting large gatherings, it is not the most effective tool to address most first-time violations and lower risk behaviors. Review more information about student rights in the community standards process at our website.

What are the consequences of COVID-19 violations?

One of the most common initial outcomes for a COVID-19 violation is a referral to the Cougar Health Services TOGETHER program. TOGETHER is a synchronous workshop that is heavily rooted in best practices for public health initiatives. The content is developed to help students understand the risks of their decision making not only on themselves, but also on the greater Pullman community.

Another common outcome from the community standards process is disciplinary probation. Disciplinary probation is the university’s formal notice to the student that future community standards violations may result in a referral to the University Conduct Board with the recommendation of suspension or expulsion. Being on disciplinary probation also prevents a student from serving in a leadership role within a student organization and may prevent them from representing the university in a study abroad experience.

Additional potential sanctions are listed on the community standards website.

What jurisdiction does WSU have for students who live off campus?

The Standards of Conduct for students may apply to off-campus conduct that adversely affects the health and safety of the university community. The Center for Community Standards regularly addresses behavior that occurs off campus where we can identify specific individuals or registered student organizations that are involved.

How does the Center for Community Standards get information about off-campus behavior?

The Center for Community Standards has a close working relationship with the Pullman Police Department. Because Nuisance party violations are civil infractions, the information about citations issued is not available in the Pullman Police online daily log. Our office files public records requests with the Pullman Police department to access that information.

How does the Center for Community Standards get information about off-campus behavior?

The Center for Community Standards has a close working relationship with the Pullman Police Department. Because Nuisance party violations are civil infractions, the information about citations issued is not available in the Pullman Police online daily log. Our office files public records requests with the Pullman Police department to access that information.

What should I do if I see a student violating COVID-19 guidelines?

Ask: Ask the individual if they are aware of the university expectations regarding your concern.

Inform: Inform the student what the policy is or what they would need to do to comply.

Leave: If non-compliance continues, ask the person to leave. If they do not leave, remove yourself from the area.

Report: Please submit a report online to refer information to the Center for Community Standards. Please provide as much information as possible as our response is quite limited where we are unable to identify the students or behaviors involved. Including information such as the specific student(s) involved and what specific behaviors you observed is helpful. Even small details such as whether the student wearing a mask or not, are important for our office to determine what response is appropriate. Our response is dependent on the severity of the violation and any previous contacts with the student(s) regarding public health directive compliance.

How can I report ‘Zoombombing’ or other class disruptions?

You as the faculty member can set appropriate expectations for classroom decorum. report disruptions to the Center for Community Standards. Our office will review the information submitted to determine what university response would be most appropriate. We will coordinate with other university offices, such as the Office of the Dean of Students and the Office for Compliance and Civil Rights to not only address the behavior, but also support impacted students, staff, and faculty.

How do I address issues of Academic Integrity?

The move to distance education raises additional concerns regarding academic integrity. Access to online resources can easily blur the line between collaboration and academic dishonesty. The Center for Community Standards recommends that you set clear expectations about what resources and collaboration are permitted for your course. After meeting with a student to determine their responsibility for violating your course policies, report issues of academic integrity to Community Standards.

What does research tell us about students adhering to public health guidelines?

The full context of the COVID-19 pandemic and student compliance with prevention of infection efforts is highly complex and constantly evolving. Research provides insight into potential limitations on students’ ability to fully understand the implications and importance of their individual actions on the broader community as well as their abilities and motivations to comply. Additionally, research provides information about which strategies and actions positively influence students’ behaviors and level of compliance regarding high risk health behaviors, specifically COVID-19. Please see the non-exhaustive literature review for references.

  • Developmental phase and risk: Adolescents and young adults are more likely than adults to take risks in the presence of peers than when alone. Young adolescents’ risk perception is more influenced by other adolescence than by adults or those in position of authority. There are behavioral and neural differences between adolescents and adults in risk/conflict and no risk/no-conflict social situations (Knoll, et al., 2020), which can impact student decision-making about compliance/non-compliance with mandated COVID-19 measures.
  • Mental & physical health: Students feel a strong need to socialize in person to decrease harmful effects of long-term physical/social isolation and poor mental health. For many students it is not a choice about compliance; rather, it is about attending to very basic health needs.
  • Risk perception: Higher risk perceptions only predict protective behavior when people believe that effective protective actions are available (response efficacy) and when they are confident that they can engage in such protective actions (self-efficacy). Further, risk perceptions as well as efficacy beliefs are highly dependent on communications with and between the members of the student groups.
  • Non-essential work requirements: Students have financial vulnerability combined with high potential for COVID-19 exposure while working at businesses such as restaurants, grocery, etc. Why socially distance during personal time when that is not being done for hours at a time at the students’ place of work?
  • Shared accommodation: Often, students have multiple household members with minimal control of who comes in and out of the space or social contacts outside of home space. This limits control and increases vulnerability to exposure.
  • Child-care responsibilities: Students attempt to social distance and isolate but child-care and social needs of child often take precedence.
  • Perceptions of COVID-19: Immediate, proximal, and personal impacts of COVID-19 are not apparent to or experienced by students, who are less likely to experience severe symptoms but do contribute to the spread of the virus.
  • Leadership, political, government related issues: Ongoing lack of clear direction or leadership on the need for compliance with COVID-19 infection control measures and consistent direction about adherence.
  • Sense of belonging: As new or transient residents in Pullman and at WSU, students can have a lower sense of social responsibility, empathy, and mutual care toward others in the community. This, in turn, decreases motivation to adhere to infection control, social distancing measures, etc.
Washington State University.
Division of Student Affairs, Washington State University
PO Box 641066, Pullman, WA 99164-1066