A petition was released advocating for changes to be made to Valpo’s COVID-19 response dashboard. The petition, opened on Oct. 2, can be found on the change.org website under the title “Improve the COVID-19 Dashboard at Valparaiso University” and as of Oct. 15 it had 516 signatures.
This began as a response to the lack of openness displayed by Valpo’s administration in terms of considering to modify the information on the dashboard. Those in favor of changing the dashboard hope to see Valpo provide the total number of active cases, the total of overall cases, the number of students in quarantine, the number of tests done and received and the remaining number of available quarantine spaces.
“[The petition] gave people an outlet or a way to voice their concerns,” said Justin McClain, creator of the petition. “The administration and the people on the COVID response team are there for students, they’re there to protect us and they’re there to have [students’] interests in mind.”
Valpo’s dashboard, which can be found at valpo.edu/looking-forward, details the protocol for testing and quarantining students as it aligns with Porter County guidelines. The dashboard is updated every Mon., Wed. and Fri.
The dashboard primarily focuses on announcing the number of active cases and the number of new active cases as well as the total number of positive cases overall since Aug. 20. In comparison to other Indiana universities and what’s included in their respective dashboards, Valpo reports only a fraction of the same information.
“They just added the total case count for Valpo, however it’s a lot smaller font than the active cases and it’s at the very bottom of the dashboard so it’s hidden. While I understand Valpo’s concern for not wanting to report how many tests they’ve done, because it’s a very low number, that is something you have to report, that is something that students should see,” McClain said.
Many are concerned about the current and future impact the dashboard has on the Valpo community. There are apprehensions that there’s a rising distrust between the administration and students due to a lack of reporting and transparency.
“[Students] aren’t really sure how safe to be, they don’t know what level of caution to use because the University won’t tell them what’s going on,” said Nick Davis, a junior signer of the petition. “If there is some kind of surge, and people become affected by the virus, everyone who doesn’t know this, is going to assume everything is okay and they are going to go about everything as usual. They are going to be nonchalant about wearing their mask and touching their face.”
The lack of response from administration regarding concerns over the information on the dashboard has caused disappointment within the Valpo community. Some believe that their failure to take action will result in a loss of confidence from the student body to deal with future issues.
“It’s not like it’s a small thing, it’s a pandemic, so you should be fully transparent with everything that’s going on,” Davis said.
Efforts have been made by McClain to talk with administration to express his, and other students’ apprehensions with the information presented on Valpo’s dashboard. However, no changes have been made.
“Even if the data doesn’t look like what you’re hoping for, you still have to report it, you still have to be transparent with people and Valpo just isn’t doing that. Until I see the dashboard with total active cases, total cases, number of people in quarantine and things like that, I’m going to keep [the petition] open and I’m going to keep sending the updates to the administration and the COVID response team. COVID across the country is increasing, COVID in Indiana is increasing, so any effort made by the University should be increasing,” McClain said.
On Oct. 13, McClain posted an update on the change.org petition page that stated he had met with the Vice President for Community and Government Relations and Chief of Staff, Rick AmRhein. In the update McClain stated that he was “deeply frustrated with how the meeting turned out.”
“I was told that the petition does not warrant a response because it did not explicitly ask for one. I was told that each one of your voices and signatures does not matter,” the update read. “To be specific, I was told that the 500+ signatures on this petition does not accurately represent the concerns that this campus has about the COVID-19 dashboard because it is too easy for someone to sign a petition.”
Student Senate will be voting on a senate resolution about the COVID-19 dashboard during their Oct. 19 general body meeting.