If you think state and federal government COVID-19 policies are too restrictive, you haven’t been to a college campus lately. Schools across the country have imposed extreme, micromanaging rules on 19-22 year olds—a demographic more likely to die from the seasonal flu and pneumonia than COVID.
Paying top dollar at already overpriced institutions for vastly inferior remote learning, university students remain unnecessarily isolated and barred from using the services and facilities they and their families are paying for.
Many schools, like Southern Methodist University, forbid students from having guests in their dorm rooms. Others have even installed security cameras in the hallways aimed at residents’ doors to monitor adherence.
Most institutions have isolation dorms or, as some students call them, “isolation prisons,” where students who test positive for COVID are forced to live alone for two weeks (sound familiar?).
Many students must wear masks at all times, including outdoors and in gyms. This is an ironic twist for institutions that train scientists and house overwhelmingly leftist professors and students who chastise anyone for questioning the ever-changing government COVID guidelines and screech at all of us to “follow the science” as though science is a religion with no growth, questioning, or margin of error.
COVID data strongly suggests that being fit and healthy is essential to protecting yourself from the virus and that those with comorbidities, such as obesity and diabetes, which are often related to lifestyle, are far more likely to be hospitalized or die from the Wuhan virus. Yet “pro-science” universities have made working out as difficult as possible. Many school gyms are closed. At schools with open gyms, many require students to sign up in advance to use them and can only stay for short periods at a time, usually less than an hour.
At the University of Wisconsin – Madison, students are forced to take COVID tests every four days. If they don’t, they lose access to university buildings. Their testing catalogue is counted on the Safer Badgers App, which students are required to download and many believe is an invasion of privacy.
“They are tracking our movements,” said Connor Hess, a junior at UW-Madison studying chemical engineering. Hess explained that while the university claims to not be tracking them, the app constantly asks students to turn on “optional” location services. The app uses Bluetooth to monitor if clusters of students are congregating together, and who the students are. “They say they just have location services so that you can now see where the testing sites are,” said Hess skeptically, “but I don’t know if I fully believe that.”
If you miss required COVID tests at UW-Madison, the university has implemented a “progressive approach” to their “administrative consequences.” Punishments include being unable to use campus Wi-Fi, barred from accessing your transcripts, and prohibited from adding or dropping classes.
Students may also be put on “disciplinary probation,” which will be noted on their transcript and affect their ability to study abroad. In the end, consequences for not strictly following university COVID regulations lead to suspension. Similar disciplinary systems have been implemented at universities across the country.
Like many other colleges, my school, the University of Chicago, has created a “snitch list,” where students can anonymously turn in classmates for having a small gathering or not wearing a mask properly.
Students turned in to the university authorities across the country for having friends have had their class registration put on hold, been kicked out of university housing, and even been suspended. This Soviet software is divisive and disturbing and is often applied unfairly and sometimes used by students to target peers they don’t like or seek to take revenge on.
A group of nine freshmen at the University of Chicago were reported to the snitch list after taking a photo in front of one of the university buildings. After the photo was posted on social media, the group was reported for not standing six feet apart, even though the students were outside and every student in the photo was wearing a mask. The majority of the freshmen pictured were members of the Chicago Thinker, a conservative/libertarian student newspaper on campus.
Such is the fear of being socially shamed or harassed on campus over COVID violations that when I asked students featured in the reported photo if I could share it for this article, every one said no and asked that I not use their name in this article. The few who agreed to talk to me said they are afraid of drawing more attention to themselves and the controversy. Most importantly, students are afraid of being discriminated against by future employers.
Students explained that the stakes are high. After one additional infraction, like the reported photo, they could be kicked out of the dorms. One freshman said he is worried if he is identified he will be “relentlessly mocked on social media” and “provoke leftists to maliciously report me out of spite.” (The singular male pronoun is used here for sentence clarity, but the anonymous students in this article may instead be females.)
One of the students pictured agreed, saying that he does not know who reported them, but he has noticed that punishment is not equally applied to leftist students on campus who are generally not afraid of being turned in to the snitch list and have engaged in Black Lives Matter rioting on campus with no consequences.
“It reeks of targeting when you know leftist students have no fear of repercussions when they post videos of themselves burning things on private property while mask-less and conservative students have to be afraid of taking a masked picture outside in which they are only 5.9 feet apart,” said the student.
“The hysteria around COVID restrictions has bred an environment of such extreme judgment and fear that we cannot even function as normal human beings without being on edge,” said the first student. “It’s unsettling that people are keeping tabs on you and filing reports just for taking a picture with friends, which of course, everyone on campus does.”
One of the conservative freshmen was so fearful of being mentioned that he sent me this frantic email after a cordial phone conversation where I promised not to post the group photo:
Welcome to the new world order, where Americans live under a social credit system like the Communist Party in China uses to control their people. With every Snapchat and retweet, social scores are updated and altered.
If you adhere to left-wing orthodoxy, you will be okay. If you deviate from the norm, you will be punished socially and professionally. Young people today are acutely aware of this. They comply, rather than rebel—even conservative and libertarian students. It’s our new reality.
While today’s generation is compliant and submissive in the face of university overreach into their personal lives, feminists from the 1960s rebelled against onerous and intrusive rules. Before the feminist movement of the 1960s, women in colleges were subject to excessive and sexist university decrees. They had to adhere to strict dress codes and curfews. The parents of female students had to fill out a form articulating specific permission for their daughter to leave campus during the school year and they had to include how she may travel and with whom she may stay with. These rules contributed to a cultural revolution.
Renowned American feminist academic, professor, and cultural critic Camille Paglia was in college during these repressive times and was on the front lines of the 1960s feminist movement. She joined other women of her time in fighting paternalistic rules over the lives of adult college students—especially women.
Over the years, she has been a vocal critic of how modern feminism has changed and embraced the coddling, surveillance, and intrusion of college administrators in the lives and interpersonal relationships on college campuses, specifically in response to hysterical “rape culture” propaganda.
Paglia, a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania since 1984, explains how 1960s activism, contrary to modern leftism, “challenged, rebuked, and curtailed authority in the pursuit of freedom and equality.” Students wanted “less surveillance and paternalism, not more.” Modern leftists and feminists, on the other hand, actively undermine intellectual freedom and diversity at American universities and have walked back important advancements made during the 1960s.
While freedom-loving students like Paglia forced the overbearing administration out of the personal lives of adult students, today’s leftists have invited them back in, with creepy surveillance tools to boot.
The truth is, the oppressive COVID rules, many of which violate civil liberties, are an extension of the stifling speech codes and safe spaces so popular on college campuses. Free speech was once the “primary weapon” of the left, according to Paglia. Today’s leftist students beg for more regulation and turn in their non-compliant classmates. Feeling helpless and outnumbered by the loud voices of social justice warriors on campus, most college students are terrified into submission and silence.
This year, the University of Chicago forced me to sign a nearly 2,000-word “UChicago Acknowledgement and Attestation Regarding COVID-19” or have my student ID card deactivated. If you need any more proof that college administrators are infantilizing adult college students, here is an excerpt from the COVID-19 agreement I had to sign:
I agree that the University may disclose violations of this attestation and other COVID-19-related protocols or guidance established by the University and public health authorities to my parent(s), legal guardians(s) and other third parties as permitted by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
This is what happens when universities have more administrators and lawyers than professors. For years, Paglia has warned that “swollen campus bureaucracy, empowered by intrusive federal regulation,” are the powerful fist crushing freedom at universities.
The societal effects of the university COVID power grab will be felt when students leave college and enter the workforce. Recent college grads will add to the growing number of young people terrorizing executives and co-workers with social justice threats and extortions. The rest of Americans will be helpless in the face of leftist intimidation, having been desensitized at college to oppressive rules and regulations encroaching on their personal lives and individual freedom.
This story was originally published in the Chicago Thinker.