Friday, August 28, 2020

The headline in the WaPo made me smile: Cornell students petition to have freshman TikTok star expelled for flouting coronavirus rules.

I've been leary about Cornell's plan to reopen, worrying about the 4 Tucson kids who planned to start as freshmen this month.  But the University stuck to its guns; they'd done modeling and determined that the risk was smaller if they opened.  

Why? Most students and faculty and staff would be in Ithaca anyway.  Leases are signed a year in advance and cannot easily be broken; students would return to their apartments however the teaching experience was received.  By formally opening, Cornell could require students to sign a behavioral contract in order to participate in the semester ahead.  

Masks, social distancing, participation in surveillance testing (free and twice a week at a convenient location near you), small gatherings allowed with masks and spacing - nothing unusual, just our new normal if people would get with the program. And if you want to go to Cornell this semester, you get with the program.  

No one in the wider world believed that students would be capable of being well behaved.  No one thought that college students could keep their hands and their mouths and their bodies to themselves.  No one thought they were mature enough, would care enough, were responsible enough to comply.

And I was right there, agreeing with all of that.  And then there was that headline, and I was abashed.

A freshman with 500,000 TikTok followers posted pictures of herself squished together with other maskless idiots at a party. Once word got out, a petition to have her removed from campus garnered 2000 signatures before the ink was dry.

Jessica Zhang has shown that she .... wants to put other citizens at risk for the sake of her own entertainment.   
Some students don't have the luxury of going home to a quiet and healthy environment to focus on academics.  
Do not ruin it for everyone else. 

The University received the petition, saw the TikTok schtick, and says it is taking action. 

They've only been on campus for a week or so, and look at what they've done.  They've come together to right a wrong, to expose and condemn the misbehavior, and to offer a preferred solution.  The petition ends this way, reminding us that they are, still, kids:

And if you're more mad about people exposing others for violating guidelines and putting everyone's health at risk, then you're part of the problem.

The penalties for violating the Cornell Student Behavioral Compact are of escalating severity, including expulsion with no refunds.  The petitioners want Jessica's acceptance revoked; that wasn't listed as a possible outcome in the Compact. 

To prove that the University is taking this seriously, the Compact includes this warning:

I acknowledge and agree that there is no appeal of the decisions and directives of the CCCT, as these determinations will be made on an urgent basis to protect the health and safety of the community as a whole.

 And this even more dire warning:

The decisions and directives of the CCCT will not be reported by Cornell as disciplinary records or actions. However, I acknowledge and agree that the university may disclose violations of the Compact to my parents .....

Oh no.  They're going to tell my mom.

Kids like rules.  That was my basic parenting mantra.  It worked then and it works now; FlapJilly and Giblet have a lot of freedom because there are rules in place to keep them safe.  The Class of 2024 came to campus after agreeing to abide by those same kinds of rules, and they are taking the appropriate steps to bring their wayward colleague into line.  

I really hope this works.  Transparency will help; there are daily metrics posted on the Covid-19 Tracking Dashboard.  There seems to be buy in from the students.  

This is one time when I'd like to be proven wrong.  Another weekend is coming up..... I'll be watching the numbers.


  1. I hadn't heard this story. Thanks for sharing. And yes, I think the rules (along with a little positive peer pressure shaming) will go far towards keeping the students safe.

    1. Though the picture on the front page of the local paper showed 4 UofA students on The Mall on campus, 2 with and 2 without masks. They have to be called out.


Talk back to me! Word Verification is gone!