Op-ed: Making the right choices for the common good

Has it really been almost a year since the first time we had to quarantine, and everything changed? It seems like so much longer, doesn’t it?

By now, you are intimately familiar with the core elements of the Tufts University COVID-19 prevention and mitigation plan. Tufts’ plan has worked so far. Those who wished to be in person for the fall semester were able to do so right through finals. Now, despite recent favorable numbers in Massachusetts, we still are at a much higher level of test positivity than when we started classes in September. As we begin the spring semester, will our plan enable us to keep our community safe and sustain the in-person experience? The answer depends, in large part, on you. 

You have an individual responsibility and a collective one. Choosing to follow the COVID-19 protocols will help keep you safe. Choosing to follow the COVID-19 protocols will also help keep others safe and increase the odds that everyone can complete the spring semester in person.

I know you are getting weary of the mask-wearing, physical distancing and restrictions on social life. We all are. But poor individual choices have a very negative impact on your classmates and communities. In the residence halls, some residential assistants are uncomfortable having to monitor behavior that puts everyone at risk. That is really not their job but some students are leaving them no options. On campus and off, some classmates are uncomfortable reporting the code violations of others. Your short-term decision to party with 15 friends without masks, only to don one or hide behind a couch when an RA appears, puts you, other people and your standing in the Tufts community at risk. What may seem like a small risk in the moment could upend the hard work that allows for an in-person semester, with repercussions for our community that go well beyond your personal stakes.  

Many students who faced code of conduct investigations this year have told us that they did not think that we were enforcing the protocols. To their dismay, they discovered otherwise. Although handled quietly, professionally and with respect for students’ privacy, we have always actively pursued violations of our honor system. You just may not see it and that is by design. Our emphasis has not been — and will never be — on punishment. However, actions have consequences. To date, we have contacted 866 students for alleged violations of the COVID-19 protocols. Actions for those found in violation have ranged from reprimands to disciplinary suspensions. Our actions focus on student safety, on helping students make wise choices and on empowering them to learn from their mistakes. 

We know how much this pandemic has upended and reshaped your collegiate experience. We know that there is still a long road ahead. But together, we can make the best of this situation. Let’s support one another and make the right choices for the common good.  

Camille Lizarríbar, JD, PhD

Dean of Student Affairs and Chief Student Affairs Officer for AS&E

Dean Lizarríbar can be reached at [email protected]