October 20, 2021

KEMPFF | End the COVID-19 Lockouts

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The internet lockout. It sends shivers down the spines of students who have faced it.

It works like this: when a student misses their testing days, the University locks all on-campus internet and account access — including Canvas — until the test is completed. This was a key component of the behavioral impact, created at a time when relatively little was known about COVID-19.

However, times have since changed. Looking at campus today, which nears full vaccination status and a minor number of cases, the danger level has changed. And with an extensive testing program combined with safeguards, the threat of another crisis is minimal. 

Placed against this backdrop, it’s time to eliminate the lockout. Students who don’t test already face swift punishment from the Judicial Administrator. Some students who miss their testing days are placed on disciplinary probation.

The access lockout is an oversized punishment. Students are prohibited from doing anything with an internet connection, which includes taking an exam. Even if a student manages to get to a testing site on the same day as an important assignment, it’s more likely than not that their connection will only be restored the following morning. 

Although I can’t say exactly how the monitoring team operates, I do know it is slow. Previously, this slow response time due to a Cornell system error forced me to miss an assignment deadline that was due in class. It was embarrassing, and a sign that the lockout has outlived its purpose. 

I am the first proponent of testing and vaccines. And there should be repercussions for not testing. But it’s not fair to jeopardize a student’s academic career because they missed a handful of days for testing. Besides, they will already be punished by Cornell’s judicial system.

Like many other students here, I had COVID-19 in late August. Forced to quarantine for 10 days and extremely sick, there weren’t many silver linings. One of the few positives was the message from Cornell Health that I was exempted from testing for 90 days. 

So, on the afternoon of my release from quarantine back in the beginning of September, I was surprised when I received a message along the lines of: You have not tested for COVID-19 during your assigned period. I was also warned that this put me in danger of an internet lockout. 

I didn’t think much of the message, chalking it up to a system error. But the next morning, as I went onto Canvas for my class, I realized my account did not work. This class depends on an internet connection, and I proceeded to panic.

I then made some phone calls to Cornell Health, who redirected me to the COVID-19 team. After a long wait, the team there sent me back to Cornell Health, who told me there was nothing they could do. 

Hours later, I finally got a return phone call. My access to the online system would be restored within 24 hours. Until then, I just needed to wait. 

You don’t realize how much you truly rely on the internet until it’s taken away. The restrictions blocked all functions with a NetID, including the internet. I couldn’t even login to access my GET app to purchase food. 

This experience showed me one thing: we need change. We need to eliminate this extreme and murky punishment. It’s time to eliminate the internet lockout, and instead emphasize the other repercussions. The threat of a JA should be enough to scare any student into Willard Straight. 

Brendan Kempff is a junior in the School of Hotel Administration. He can be reached at [email protected]. Slope Side runs every other Wednesday this semester.