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Penn State To Revise Coronavirus Compact’s Language

Penn State plans to update the language in its Coronavirus Compact, a pledge outlining the university’s health and safety requirements and guidelines, to address student, faculty, and staff concerns, the university announced Thursday morning.

The pledge, which was released last week, asked students to agree to cooperate with coronavirus testing procedures, follow public health guidelines, and acknowledge they assume “any and all risk” of potentially contracting the coronavirus on campus this semester. Students were required to click “agree” before they could access LionPATH, Penn State’s management system for courses and financial information.

Despite reportedly receiving agreements from more than 64,000 students so far, Penn State said it will revise existing language and provide a second agreement option to eliminate existing confusion.

  • The existing language in question reads: “I assume any and all risk of exposure to COVID-19 that may result from attending Penn State, or participating in Penn State activities, and I acknowledge that exposure or infection may result in personal injury, illness, permanent disability, or death.”
  • Penn State’s modified language will read: “Even with the mitigation steps taken by Penn State and my compliance with this Compact, I acknowledge that Penn State cannot prevent the risks of exposure to COVID-19 that may result from attending Penn State or participating in Penn State activities.”

Most notably, the updated language removes references to potential “personal injury, illness, permanent disability, or death.” Penn State said it plans to revise the pledge’s wording to reinforce the agreement doesn’t wave students’ rights.

“Others have misinterpreted the language of the Compact as a waiver of students’ rights, which was neither the case, nor the intent,” Penn State said. “The Compact was to reinforce the University’s expectations and requirements, and to see that those requirements were raised to everyone’s attention.”

Penn State plans to publish the updated compact agreement “in the coming days,” which will come in the form of a second agreement option. Students who intend on returning to campus this fall are still required to read and agree to the compact.

“We feel it is important that students and families understand there is COVID-19 risk, everywhere in our daily lives, and to reinforce the importance of following the public health guidelines established by the state and public health experts for the return to campus learning,” Penn State said. “To reiterate: This is not a waiver and was not intended to be. It is an acknowledgment.”

The university also clarified students opting into a fully remote semester this fall and not living on campus or “in the surrounding communities” won’t be required to agree to the compact. They’ll soon be provided an option to bypass the compact in LionPATH.

To date, the Coronavirus Compact has drawn criticism from students, faculty, and staff. Many cited they felt intimidated by its language and weren’t too keen on signing a “death waiver” before returning to campus.

Meanwhile, a group of Penn State faculty members penned an open letter to the university’s students, citing the compact was “coercive, ill-advised, and intimidating.” The letter, issued by the Colation For A Just University, was written prior to Penn State’s revisions were announced.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State with distinction in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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