Penn State Releases 'COVID-19 Compact' Students Must Sign Before Returning to Campus

Mark Wogenrich

Before getting to the legal boilerplate, Penn State's "COVID-19 Compact" speaks to students in plain terms.

"Carefully read the following statement," the document says. "You must acknowledge that you understand what it says. In a world filled with important things, this one is really important; please treat it that way."

Penn State is requiring all students to sign the "COVID-19 Compact" before returning to campus for the scheduled restart of in-person classes beginning Aug. 24. The two-page document mostly is a reminder of the health and safety protocols repeated over the past four months: Wear face coverings in buildings, adhere to distancing requirements, wash your hands and stay home if sick.

Penn State also is asking students to self-quarantine for seven days prior to returning to campus and to submit to testing if asked. Further, the university asks students to get a flu vaccine when available and limit travel both on- and off-campus.

In addition, the compact asks students to assume the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 by returning to campus and states that they could face disciplinary action for not following university measures.

Damon Sims, vice president for student affairs, has said that students could face summary suspension and be asked to leave campus if they do not adhere to the precautions.

"The compact is really going to be the clearest expression of what is required in the most straightforward way," Sims said during a recent university town hall presentation. "It is also an expression of the fact that we are all in this together."

Penn State plans to test 30,000 students from what it considers "high-risk" infection zones before reopening. Those who test positive must quarantine and be medically cleared before returning to campus.

Penn State has purchased 500,000 cloth masks and 1.5 million procedural masks to distribute to students and staff. The university also said it has purchased several thousand additional hand-sanitizer stations and will employ a student group of "health and safety ambassadors" to remind those on campus about wearing masks and deliver them if necessary.

“We are looking forward to welcoming all of our students back to our campuses this fall. While this will be a different kind of semester than any we have experienced before, these criteria have been developed to support the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and community members in accordance with public health guidance and our own infectious disease specialists,” Penn State President Eric Barron said in a statement. "We know our students want to do their part to not only help reduce transmission of the virus within the community, but also to increase our chances and ability of remaining on campus for the semester. These are concrete steps students must take as Penn Staters to do their parts.”

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