Northern Arizona University has cracked down on COVID-19 testing infractions this week, locking students who have not received their mandatory testing out of their online classes as final exams begin.
NAU spokesperson Kimberly Ott told the Arizona Daily Sun that even after three email notifications and a phone call, approximately 25 students did not receive COVID-19 testing or file for an exemption and were notified that NAU would turn off their access to Blackboard Learn (Bb Learn), the learning management system the school uses for all of its classes’ online materials, including the submission of assignments and exams.
The move came as a surprise to faculty, which heard about the action through distressed students when they were unable to access their Bb Learn accounts.
NAU Faculty Senate President Gioia Woods said several faculty were caught off guard by this approach, especially after working hard this semester to help students succeed in light of the many changes brought to campus as a result of COVID-19.
“We all agree that a culture of compliance is CRUCIAL to containing COVID-19, and it's critical we all — faculty, students, staff — comply with the call for random testing,” Woods said in an email. “But to block students in the final week of the semester is harmful, especially for students most at risk. And to do so without letting faculty or department chairs know resulted in panic and confusion.”
As of Wednesday, Ott said after their access was turned off, the majority of these students then completed testing or provided exemption information and are back online. NAU is monitoring the remainder to reactivate their accounts as soon as they meet the requirements.
She explained the university has been informing and will continue to inform students of its expectation that they participate in COVID-19 mitigation strategies, as enforced through the Student Code of Conduct, and that there would be penalties for non-compliance.
“NAU has implemented this type of firm action, including interim suspensions, for students or organizations that [break] rules on-campus that are in place to promote health and safety during these challenging times,” Ott said in an email.
Every week, NAU aims to test about 13% of its student and employee populations and, since August, it has administered more than 32,000 COVID-19 tests, including to Flagstaff community members. As of its latest update dated Nov. 13, the university is managing 46 COVID-19 cases in both on- and off-campus students, down from 57 last week.
According to a report from Coconino County Health and Human Services, the 86011 ZIP code that is associated with the NAU campus has seen a total of 278 recorded COVID-19 cases throughout the pandemic. In total, Coconino County has had 6,428 cases as of Wednesday.
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