By Henry Astor
If you have spent any time on Columbia’s campus over the past year, you have probably seen the ubiquitous blue signs that read “Report a Health & Safety Violation” alongside a QR code that links directly to the Student Conduct and Community Standards website. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Columbia has utilized a number of evidence-based strategies in pursuit of a COVID-19-free campus, formalized in its Community Health Compact: mandatory twice-weekly PCR testing for students living in residence halls, wastewater surveillance, and, of course, limitations on which students can live in campus housing. The crux of the University’s plan, however, has been the requirement for all students to wear masks and keep physical distance between others at all times, including those with whom they share living spaces. The only exception is when eating or in a private room with the door closed. Accountability for following these policies is, in some ways, reliant on students filing anonymous reports on their peers to Student Conduct and Community Standards. This method seems ineffective and diffuses accountability in a way that often leaves students feeling conflicted. Undergraduate students should not be expected to be the first line of defense against this invisible enemy when the University is ultimately responsible for where and how students are housed....