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Penn State college students should signal COVID-19 legal responsibility waiver to return


Penn State University students returning to campus for the upcoming school year must sign a liability waiver absolving the university of responsibility in the event of “personal injury, illness, permanent disability, or death” related to COVID-19.

“I acknowledge that the Centers for Disease Control, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania State University have issued rules and precautions that may, or may not, be effective in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, and that it is my responsibility to follow these and other directives to protect myself and others from the substantial risks posed by this virus,” the waiver, obtained by Newsweek, states.

The document continues: “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.”

The waiver, titled “The Penn State COVID-19 Compact,” goes on to outline requirements that students must abide by — which include being tested, wearing face covers in campus buildings at all times, and self-quarantining after testing positive or coming in close contact with someone who was infected.

Other guidance instructs students to self-quarantine for at least seven days prior to arrival on campus and to get a flu vaccine as soon as it is available.

“Failure to abide by the following requirements may subject you to disciplinary action, including suspension or expulsion from the University,” the university warns.

Penn State University campusAlamy Stock Photo

The waiver also states, “If, at any point, I am unable to sustain these commitments to my fellow students and our community, I shall remove myself from the campus and complete the semester remotely.”

“If I do not choose to take this step, I understand that I shall have forfeited the privilege of remaining on campus, and that the University may, in the interest of public health and safety, take administrative action to prohibit me from participating in any in-person campus activities, including residing in residence halls, attending classes, or joining any other pursuit that otherwise would be available to me,” the contract says.

Maggie Hernandez, a PhD student in Penn State’s anthropology department, told Newsweek that the university crafted the agreement to prevent students from accessing important data including finances, course registration and medical insurance if the waiver is not signed.

The only way to be given access to those resources is by clicking “I agree,” on the waiver, according to the news outlet.

“What Penn State is doing is grabbing all of the blame from the people potentially getting infected by COVID-19 and everything of what that means, including permanent health problems moving forward or even death, and placing it directly on the students,” Hernandez told Newsweek.

Penn State students have the choice of taking their classes either in-person or remotely, but Hernandez said reopening the university in any capacity is “putting the lives of the local community members in danger.”

Students at Penn State UniversityAlamy Stock Photo

A Penn State spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As of Thursday, the state of Pennsylvania had reported more than 125,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 7,300 virus-related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.


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