ORLANDO, Fla. - Students and parents have voiced mixed reactions to the University of Central Florida's plans to randomly select students for COVID-19 testing, with some questioning the legality of mandatory testing and the penalties students who refuse will face.
Since the policy, which also applies to faculty and staff, was announced Sept. 15, a debate has raged on social media. Some think the testing is a valuable safeguard against outbreaks of infection, while others argue it will be intrusive and ineffective.
In Facebook group "UCF Parents," one of the group's roughly 11,700 members commented, "Great idea to test randomly. I appreciate that." Said another: "Disciplinary action if a student refuses?!? What kind of communist country are we living in?"
Peggy Agner, whose son is a senior criminal justice major at UCF, argued in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel that testing can't account for the potential of exposure students face any time they go to a public place, like a grocery store. Educating students on the importance of social distancing and wearing masks should be prioritized instead, she said.
"I think they need to pay attention to not allowing these crazy parties that we're all seeing on the television," Agner said. "These kids think they're invincible."
UCF senior Aisha Philippeaux said she's in favor of testing - but concerned about students facing disciplinary action if they don't comply.
"I feel like it's in the student's best interest and the school's," said Philippeaux, a clinical psychology major. "You can have COVID and be asymptomatic, so you think you're fine and end up spreading it to other people."
UCF is not alone in adopting this approach to containing the virus: Florida State University and the University of South Florida have also implemented random testing for students. All three schools warn that those who don't comply may face disciplinary action.
"If we identify an unexpectedly high rate of cases through random testing, we will further review the situation and may conduct additional testing to help contain the spread of COVID-19," Dr. Michael Deichen, associate vice president of UCF Student Health Services, said in a statement.
UCF is paying for the tests, and students on campus this semester will be notified by email of their selection. Aventus Biolabs is facilitating the testing at an on-campus garage, Deichen said.