UVM needs to help us keep our promise

Sophie Oehler, Opinion Columnist

The French have a saying: con comme ses pieds. It means “stupid as the feet”, and it essentially encompasses my personality. 

I forgot to take my COVID test. It was a lapse in brain function, and will surely join the ranks of regrettable moments in my life that I wish had gone very different ways. 

But, I took care of what I was supposed to, filled out an exemption form and went to get a make-up test as soon as I could. 

So imagine my surprise when I checked my email Monday afternoon and discovered a letter from the Provost of UVM. I had broken the Green and Gold promise, and therefore would be fined $250 and put on probation of suspension until further notice. 

After crying on the phone to my father for longer than a halfway functioning adult should, I sent a strongly worded email to the Center of Student Conduct, pleading my case. 

And since you all aren’t on that board, I figured I’d share my experiences so that you can hopefully avoid having similar interactions in the future.  

At risk of sounding like Draco Malfoy, I do want to point out that UVM is doing a spectacular job keeping campus running fairly smoothly during these unprecedented times. It’s not easy keeping track of 12,000 largely uncontrollable students in a time of a pandemic, and they do deserve credit for their hard work to keep us all happy and healthy. 

I do, however, think there are some things they could be doing better. 

The way the process works is every student has an assigned testing day. For me, that was Thursdays.

If you miss your testing day, you have 24 hours to make it up, or risk being fined $250; a steep sum for the most expensive state school in the country, but I digress. 

So for a student who’s day seven lands on a Thursday or Friday, there is very little time to make up a missed test without going past the 24 hour mark. For lack of a better word, you’re screwed.

The school is also offering an exemption form, to allow students to place a temporary hold on their testing status, until they can get into the testing center. You just have to provide the reason you can’t take the test, and then the school will email you back to let you know if your request has been accepted or not. 

Well when I did that, I never got a response from the Center of Student Conduct to approve the form.

But when I called Troy from the Center of Student Conduct office, on the verge of tears, to demand the meaning of this, he informed me the UVM Strong office had been so swamped with forms and appeals and emails that they had probably just lost my form. 

With no offense to Troy, that rubbed me the wrong way. 

It seems counterintuitive for the school to offer this loophole, and then fail to follow through with their responsibilities. The point of the exemption form is to prevent students from being unjustly fined. It can only do its job, however, if both sides complete their part. 

If the school can’t keep up with the amount of appeals and correspondence going through their offices, I would urge them to hire more volunteers or workers. There is no excuse for a handful of workers to be handling the affairs of thousands of students, especially during times like these. 

It is inequitable to those individuals, and the students. 

The school would see less fines if they offered a few slots of testing appointments over the weekends. This would allow students who miss their tests to have a little bit of extra time to complete their test. 

If we have to agree to the Green and Gold promise, and uphold it for fear of expulsion, the least the university could do is make it easy to do so. 

Hire more people, extend testing appointments past 5:30 pm, and offer some on the weekends. We’re setting the example for the country’s institutions. Let’s make sure we’re living up to it.