UF gave students another way of combating COVID-19: reporting when their peers are not.
GATORSAFE, an iOS and Android phone app with UF safety tools like emergency contacts and the campus map, updated noon today to add a COVID-19 tab, said University Police Department Major Bart Knowles. Here, users can report people on campus not wearing masks or not social distancing.
The app is open to anyone in the Gainesville community – not just students.
GATORSAFE will be monitored for reports by UF’s 33-person Student Affairs Leadership Team, made up of assistant vice presidents, directors and managers of Student Affairs’ departments, Student Affairs spokesperson Sara Tanner wrote in an email to The Alligator.
“The goal is going to be to educate and gain immediate compliance with any of our faculty staff or visitors,” Knowles said.
Vice President of Student Affairs D’Andra Mull announced the update in an email to UF students today.
The news will be shared with employees through the UF Human Resources newsletter, UF at Work, Tanner wrote.
Users will have the option of reporting COVID-19 issues anonymously or providing their name, number and email address, Knowles said. UF staff members will respond to complaints by going to the violators and educating them on the policy.
Disciplinary action would only be used if a violator refuses to comply after being asked, Knowles said.
Complaints will only be monitored during business hours and not on weekends, Knowles said. Reports received after business hours will be addressed the next business day.
In an email to UF students Aug. 21, Vice President of Student Affairs D’Andra Mull wrote that COVID-19 policy violations could result in loss of privileges, expulsion or suspension.
If a complaint is made about a faculty or staff member, the employee’s supervisor will be notified, Knowles said. Not following social distancing guidelines or refusing to wear masks could lead to dismissal for employees, according to UF’s human resources policy.
Knowles said these punishments will only be used in extreme situations, such as refusing to comply.
If a complaint is made about a visitor, the UF staff in charge of the area the visitor is in will be sent to talk with the violator, Knowles said. Visitors who do not comply will be asked to leave campus and those who refuse to leave can be removed by UPD.
“The president’s message has been we are going to take this very seriously and if we can’t gain compliance, we’re going to move very swiftly and act to address the problem,” Knowles said.
UF’s response time to the complaint will depend on how detailed the report is. The more detailed, the faster the responding staff will be able to identify the violator, Knowles said.
A detailed violation report could be a specific employee at a certain building continually not wearing a mask, he said. If the violators’ names aren’t known or a general location is given, UF staff could take longer to identify them, he added.
Mull will send an email to all students once the app is updated, Tanner wrote. The news will be shared with employees through the UF Human Resources newsletter, UF at Work, she added.
Knowles said UPD should be called if someone is acting threatening, violent or combative, but police will not be alerted for GATORSAFE app reports.
“Law enforcement is an absolute last resort,” Knowles said. “We don’t want to escalate this to a police response.”
Naika Desgrottes, a 21-year-old UF nutritional science senior, said she plans to anonymously report large gatherings of people without masks or parties through the app.
Desgrottes said she fears restaurants, bars and the campus reopening has indicated to younger students that the world has moved on from the pandemic.
“The university could educate students more on how everything is not OK and the COVID rates are going up and how college students affect those rates,” she said.
This article has been updated to include an email sent to students by the Vice President of Student Affairs on Friday.
Lianna Hubbard is a reporter for The Alligator’s Investigative Team. The UF women’s study major began as a freelance reporter three years ago. She founded her community college’s award-winning newspaper before beginning at The Independent Florida Alligator. See an issue in your community or a story at UF? Send tips to her Twitter.