October 1, 2023

5 lessons college students can learn from last year’s COVID outbreaks | Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman PC

The last year and a half has been an uncertain time for college students. From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities have been scrambling to respond to the dangers that infection poses for their students.

While widespread vaccinations have allowed for some return to normal, there’s no denying that college life will be different from here on out. Luckily, students can learn some lessons from the last few years about how to make the most of their college experience.

From the student defense attorneys at DC Student Defense, here are 5 lessons that college students can learn from the last 18 months of COVID-19 outbreaks.

Vaccines are highly encouraged

Now that there are several effective vaccines available to protect people from COVID infection, many colleges are hoping for a return to normal with the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

However, for many schools, a return to full occupancy on campus means the entire campus community must be fully vaccinated.

As of August, these are the DC-area universities that have implemented a “vaccine mandate,” meaning all students must be fully vaccinated in order to attend college in person:

  • American University
  • Gallaudet University
  • George Washington University
  • Georgetown University
  • Howard University
  • Trinity Washington University
  • University of the District of Columbia
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Virginia

In addition, international students will most likely need to be vaccinated before arrival.

And even in colleges that don’t have a vaccine mandate, students will be highly encouraged to get vaccinated. Unvaccinated students may be subject to more testing, symptom monitoring, and isolation requirements than vaccinated students.

College life will mostly be returning to normal

All that being said, college life will likely look pretty different when compared to the 2020-2021 school year.

Here are some of the changes that many schools are implementing for the upcoming fall semester:

  • Masks and social distancing are not required for unvaccinated students at many schools
  • Most classes are returning to an in-person setting
  • Dorms, dining halls, classrooms, and sports events are returning to full capacity at most schools
  • The school calendar will be going back to normal, absent any new outbreaks or shutdowns

Students may face academic consequences for COVID violations

While it’s true many colleges are attempting a return to normal, that doesn’t mean that they will be completely getting rid of any sanitation and health precautions that they implemented at the start of the pandemic.

As many students learned over the past year and a half, schools are taking their COVID-19 policies seriously. Violating these policies can lead to serious academic consequences for students, including any of the following:

  • Removal from certain classes
  • Isolation requirements
  • Loss of scholarship
  • Temporary suspension
  • Expulsion

A new development this year is that some colleges are writing these COVID policies into their codes of conduct. This means that in addition to regular conduct regulations like restrictions against plagiarism and drug use, students will be bound by their code of conduct to quarantine if they become sick, for example.

Cheating is just as dangerous online

Another lesson that college students have learned as a result of the changing landscape of higher education is that online cheating is just as dangerous as it is in person.

Since the COVID -19 pandemic began, millions of students across the country have had their first taste of 100% online classes as well as the new territory of online exams.

Unfortunately, online exams have given rise to a lot of new ways to cheat, which means students are facing more accusations of online academic misconduct.

Whether you’re intentionally trying to cheat, or you’re just engaging in behaviors that look suspicious in an online setting, it’s as easy as ever to face serious accusations of academic dishonesty.

Check out our blog post on how to avoid cheating accusations to protect your future in the era of remote learning.

Conditions may change at any time

If there’s one lesson college students should take away from the last year and a half, it’s that the conditions of their college education can change at the drop of a hat.

In March of last year, most students weren’t expecting to be sent home and finish their school year with online classes. And at the start of the 2020 fall semester, most students probably weren’t expecting that they would be fully vaccinated within just a few months.

It’s important that you expect the unexpected, and have a backup plan for the potential challenges your education may face in the coming year. That means having somewhere to go if you’re suddenly kicked out of your dorm, and having a health and safety plan in case you contract a novel coronavirus variant.

For our purposes, we believe all students should be fully prepared to defend themselves in case they’re accused by their universities of cheating, or violating a COVID -19 policy. And that means having an experienced student defense attorney on your side.