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Students May Void Penn State’s COVID-19 Compact To Agree To Revised Version

Students who previously opted into Penn State’s COVID-19 Compact are now able to submit a request to void the agreement and acknowledge a new draft of the pledge with modified language.

The option was announced Friday in an email to students from Damon Sims, Penn State’s vice president for student affairs. Each email contains a unique link students may use to submit a request to void the compact and agree to the revised version. Requests must be submitted by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, August 19.

A sample void request form

Following criticism from students, faculty, and employees, Penn State announced Thursday it would revise the pledge’s language by making the following changes:

  • 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.” The revised copy also acknowledges Penn State can’t holistically prevent the risks of exposure to the coronavirus.

To date, Sims estimated more than 70,000 Penn State students have already opted into the compact. Agreement is necessary to access LionPATH, Penn State’s student information system.

In his letter, Sims acknowledged the concerns many had with the agreement, which some viewed as a liability waiver, although the university has consistently rebuked that claim.

“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 Thursday. “The Compact was to reinforce the University’s expectations and requirements, and to see that those requirements were raised to everyone’s attention.”

The COVID-19 Compact outlines Penn State’s fall semester coronavirus mitigation efforts. By agreeing, students consent to coronavirus testing and pledge to follow on-campus public health guidelines, including mask-wearing and social distancing.

Penn State’s compact doesn’t apply to students who aren’t returning to campus this fall. Students who are returning are required to agree to the pledge, as well as a number of other pre-arrival tasks, including self-quarantining for at least seven days and potentially taking an at-home coronavirus test.

“We are committed to making the upcoming academic year a healthy, positive and rewarding experience for students,” Sims wrote. “To do so, each of you must rely on yourselves and each other to accept responsibility by abiding the principles expressed in this Compact, as well as all other important guidance set forth by the University, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and local government.”

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt is a junior majoring in journalism and is Onward State's managing editor. He's a huge Philadelphia sports fan, fantasy football aficionado, and washed-up drummer hailing from Collegeville, Pa. The quickest way to his heart is Margherita pizza. He loves Seinfeld, is really into video games, and would wipe the floor with you in Halo. Follow him on Twitter @mattdisanto_ for bad sports takes or email him at [email protected]

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