Returning College Students Facing Snitch Culture, Forced Tracking

College students starting their fall semester are facing an vastly altered environment stretching the limits of personal independence. Radical ideas bounced across headlines over the past months from health official and governors alike appear to have found a home on college campuses. 

These campus test grounds have already announced twice-a-week Covid testing for students, dormitory lockdown and other measures. 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garretti made a now infamous statement during a Covid press conference in late March. During the statewide lockdown, the Mayor encouraged the city’s people to inform on each other, “You know the old expression about snitches, well in this case snitches get rewards…We want to thank you for turning folks in…”

What was balked at by the people of Los Angeles has found a place on some college campuses. Despite reduced college experiences of in-person instruction and open campuses, most colleges are offering no breaks on tuition. Many have went a step further as Adam Sabes of Campus Reform writes, “Universities across the country are involving students in their COVID-19 prevention plans…” 

Well known colleges such as The University of Miami, Texas A&M, The University of Georgia and others are encouraging students to report on the “unsafe” behaviors of their peers using call hotlines and online systems. 

Two professors at Cornell University penned an op-ed in the New York Times titled Don’t Make College Kids the Coronavirus Police where they explained,

“People report on one another (truthfully or falsely) for a number of personal reasons, including competition, revenge, leverage and everyday aggravations. There’s every reason to assume that these motivations will bubble up in the college context, too. Students have their own loyalties, broken hearts, rocky roommate relationships and fraternity codes of silence,” 

Another operation being rolled out on some college campuses, so far rejected by the American public, are tracking systems. Michigan’s Albion College announced mandatory mobile app that will save location data, medical records and track students’ movements at all times. 

The Washington Free Beacon writes,

Albion College, located in Albion, Mich., is one of the first schools in the country to tackle contact tracing. The school is working to create a “COVID-bubble” on campus, and asking students stay within the school’s 4.5-mile perimeter for the entire semester; if a student leaves campus, the app will notify the administration, and the student could be temporarily suspended.”

Another Michigan school, Oakland University, announced they were going to attempt a similar method with a “Biobutton” which students would be required to wear. A wearable technology placed on the chest that connects to a mobile device, the “BioButton” monitors vitals, including temperature and heart-rate, in real time.

It took only a short time after the university announced the mandatory tech be placed on students’ bodies that a change.org petition was started. The petition, titled Make the BioButton Optional for Staff and Students at Oakland University quickly received 2,480 supporters forcing the university to back off mandatory tracking of its students. In a recent interview with The HighWire, Oakland University Student and change.org petition creator Tyler Dixon explained why he lobbied for the change.