Residence rule-breakers must be punished, but not at the cost of others’ safety

Three dorm room doors
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When students break social distancing protocols, there must be logical consequences.

Earlier this week, roughly 20 McGill students were temporarily evicted from residences for seven days after allegedly failing to follow COVID-19 distancing guidelines.

The Journal Editorial Board appreciates the sentiment behind McGill’s actions, especially considering the recent COVID-19 breakout in residence. But the punishment applied was far from responsible of the University.

While McGill clearly states the consequences of breaking COVID-19 protocols in its handbook, the lack of advanced notice and the University’s willingness to put students out on the streets is alarming.

The students were notified Sunday night that they were being evicted and were expected to leave residence the following day. The lack of advanced notice leaves almost no time for students to find safe, alternative housing. While some of the McGill students managed to secure hotel rooms, others crashed with their friends.

It makes sense the University wanted to separate the potentially-exposed students from its residences, but sending them out into Montreal to fend for themselves is counter-intuitive.

If these students truly flouted social distancing guidelines in residence, it’s fair to assume they’d do the same in Montreal, increasing their risk of contracting COVID-19.

Students spending their week of exile in hotels will put staff at risk. Those staying with friends could, on one hand, infect other members of the household or, on the other, catch the virus from wherever they’ve decided to crash.

In attempting to protect the McGill community, the University has put the city of Montreal at risk. What’s more, once these students return to residences at the end of the week, they may well bring COVID-19 back with them.

McGill’s poorly thought-out punishment is a lesson other Canadian universities should take heed of.

With students either already in residence or returning after the lockdown, universities must ensure their rules are being followed. But rather than turning students loose into the surrounding city, universities including McGill should follow Queen’s lead and dole out enforced 14-day quarantines instead, keeping both their other students and their surrounding cities safe.

As for the McGill students: regardless of the rules they’ve broken, they’re still the University’s responsibility—even if adopting an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality would be a heck of a lot easier.

McGill actively decided to bring students back to campus. It doesn’t get to wash its hands of its students’ misdeeds; instead, it must take responsibility and deal with them accordingly.

Journal Editorial Board

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