Garnet Pledge Q&A

On August 3, the College rolled out community health guidelines for students living on-campus during the fall semester. The new guidelines were devised by the Student Expectations Subcommittee which is composed of students, faculty, and staff. The aim of the new guidelines is to mitigate or reduce the likelihood of a COVID-19 outbreak on-campus during the fall semester. In order to clarify some questions we had about the pledge, we reached out to Jim Terhune, Vice President of Student Affairs, who provided us with responses from Rachel Head, Associate Dean and Director of the Office of Student Engagement, and Nathan Miller, Senior Associate Dean of Student Life.

Are students allowed to have other students in their rooms?

Rachel Head: Residential students may visit other residential student’s individual rooms, if they are invited and hosted by that student. Residential students may only access common spaces (kitchens, laundry, lounges) of the residential hall in which they live. Non-residential students, or students living off-campus this fall, are not permitted to access campus facilities, including residence halls.

Why did the college choose to ban alcohol for the fall semester? 

Nathan Miller: The Expectations sub-committee recommended to extend the prohibition of alcohol on campus from the spring semester for two primary reasons. First, the sub-committee was concerned with the impact that alcohol consumption would have on one’s responsible decision making in relation to critical aspects of the Garnet Pledge, specifically in relation to social distancing and wearing a mask. The fact that the cohorts returning  are first-years and sophomores — the overwhelming majority of whom are under the legal drinking age of 21 years old — also contributed to our decision.

In the Town Hall, you mentioned that any student who repeatedly violated the Garnet Pledge would be sent home. Are there any consequences for students who only violate it once or a few times? 

Jim Terhune: I want to emphasize that the Pledge is not primarily about rule breaking and consequences. It is about a mutual commitment between community members to keep each other safe. So the lens through which we hope people will view complying with the Pledge is caring for one another and looking out for the common good. That said, the guidelines detailed in the Pledge exist to protect the community, and if people refuse to live within them they may forfeit their right to stay on campus during this period. So, enforcement will be proportionate to the nature of the violation. For lesser offenses — for example not wearing a mask in common areas or while outside on campus — people would first be reminded to comply and then given a warning but if the behavior persists they could be sent home. For more serious infractions — like hosting or participating in a party or another large gathering that can serve as a super spreader for the virus — the violator[s] would be sent home immediately. But, and I can’t stress this strongly enough, the purpose of the Pledge is protection, not punishment. And enforcement is much more about all of us helping one another to do what is necessary to keep the community safe than it is about consequences.

Nathan Miller: As stated in the COVID-19 policy, “the primary approach [to addressing violations of this policy] will be educational.” In situations where students accidentally, unintentionally, or carelessly violated expectations of the Pledge, those students should expect to be reminded of why the College developed the Garnet Pledge in the first place and what the expectations are for students living on campus. Any student who deliberately, reckless, or repeatedly disregards the expectations outlined in the Pledge will likely be removed from campus housing and required to complete the fall semester off campus. 

Who is responsible for enforcing the Garnet Pledge?

Jim Terhune: The Garnet Pledge is first and foremost a commitment we are making as members of the Swarthmore community to take care of ourselves and each other. Because the nature of the COVID virus is such that the choices we make individually impact all of us in such profound and potentially dangerous ways we are all equally responsible for honoring that commitment and holding one another accountable. There are consequences for failing to live within the terms of the pledge because doing so puts the health and safety of every member of the community at risk. Honoring the pledge and ensuring that others do too is an act of caring and collective responsibility.

Will RAs (resident assistants) be responsible for enforcing the pledge? 

Rachel Head: We expect that RAs, and all other members of the community, will take an active part in helping create a healthy and safe community. This includes being proactive and active if they observe behaviors that are inconsistent with the overall health and wellbeing of the community. We also expect  that the RAs will work in partnership with all residential students to ensure that community members are keeping with the community expectations.

Can you provide the name of the testing company the school has partnered with? 

Jim Terhune: We will announce the name of the testing company with which we are working in the coming week.

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