University changes COVID-19 policies after varied student compliance

Students stand in line at the food court in Downing Student Union on August 27. After several days of long lines that go against social distancing guidelines, the food court at DSU has been updated with barriers and markers to keep students spaced apart.

Michael J. Collins

Patrons at the Downing Student Union food court saw long lines during lunch hours that raised concerns over social distancing among students.

On Thursday, DSU staff removed all chairs and tables from the area in order to accommodate larger crowds. Patrons in line still largely stand within 6 feet and can often be seen with masks not covering their mouth and nose.

Josh Sellars, a sophomore marketing major from Indianapolis, said the changes made to the layout make him feel better about being in the food court during busier hours.

“I think it’s a necessary precaution that’s safer than everyone in the com- mons just standing around,” Sellars said. “[I worry] if I’m around a bunch of friends at one time, but I’m usually pretty good about wearing my mask.”

The Big Red Restart policies, implemented prior to the fall semester, required masks indoors and social distancing at all times on campus, but no individual or group of individuals is tasked with enforcing it.

In an Aug. 21 meeting, WKU President Tim Caboni explained that individuals on campus would be responsible for enforcing mask-wearing and social distancing among peers.

“I would say it’s incumbent upon every person,” Caboni said. “Not in a mean way. But in a direct way, to your neighbor, colleague, random person, particularly inside a building, which is when you must put your mask on. If you see someone not wearing a mask, just ask.”

Caboni said that mask-wearing must become the norm on campus through

strict enforcement by the university as a whole.

“The way in which you create norms is when they’re violated, there’s some gentle or strict sanctions,” Caboni said. “And that’s not done by any individual, it’s done by the entire culture, entire organization.”

Students who refuse masks may be asked to leave class and reported to the Office of Student Conduct, according to WKU’s website. Faculty who refuse masks may be reported to the Office of Human Resources.

WKU announced 86 new cases of COVID-19 within the WKU community Friday, all of which were students. Twelve students are currently in isolation due to positive test results, and all students living in Greek chapter houses must undergo mandatory testing.

WKU’s Big Red Restart Plan did not require students to undergo testing before returning to campus.

In contrast, both the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky required all individuals to be tested before returning. The University of Kentucky is seeing a rapid spike in cases despite its efforts, with 112 new cases reported Friday, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

WKU will update the running case total on the Healthy on the Hill dash- board on Sept. 4.

Talisman Photographer Richard F. Gregor contributed to this article.

Michael J. Collins can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @mjcollinsnews.