On Aug. 6, a few weeks before the move-in process began on campus, students received an email from Student Development requiring all students to download the Aura App and complete a consent form before they arrived on campus.
Albion College has asked students to check into the Aura app to record potential COVID-19 symptoms, such as having a temperature of over 100.4 degrees, a sore throat, a cough, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, the onset of a severe headache or muscle aches, by 9 a.m. each day. Students must also report if they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The app, in addition to tracking students’ symptoms, can also track students’ locations. The college, however, will only access location data, in the instance of a positive COVID-19 test result order to make contact tracing easier and notify individuals who have been in contact with the person who tested positive..
The app also allows students to view their COVID-19 test results, making it easy to show other other students, faculty and staff that they are COVID-19 negative.
Some students appreciate the effort that the college has put into having students back on campus and have as close to a normal semester as possible.
“I think using the Aura app is a smart idea because it ensures that students are getting regularly tested and following the rules that the college put in place,” said Jonathan Stander, a junior from Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. “It’s the college goal to keep us on campus, and I support that goal.”
While some students agree that the premise behind using the app is a good idea, they still feel like it’s an invasion of privacy.
“I understand why we have the Aura App, however, I, like many students on campus, do not like it. I do feel that it’s a privacy invasion to be able to track someone,” said Sara Crissenberry, a senior from Parma Mich. “In addition, many students have found ways around the app and are still going to Jackson, home, and going about their daily activities. For us who actually follow the rules, I feel like I’m getting the short end of the stick.”
Some students, however, such as Jenna Bradley, a senior from Columbiaville, Mich., have a different viewpoint and don’t see the point of having the app along with all the other restrictions the college has put into place.
“I just feel like the numbers are going to keep going up whether or not people follow the restrictions, which I’m sure isn’t happening. We’re still going to see [those not following restrictions] in class. Like, what if they have class and potentially spread it before they get a test result back, you know?” said Bradley. “I honestly feel that with the restrictions we were given in the first place, we probably just shouldn’t have come back to campus.”
Students who abide by the app and Albion’s protocols have also expressed concerns regarding the reliability of not only the app but their peers.
“I really don’t know how I feel about it,” said Kaitlyn Darling, a sophomore from Trenton, Mich. “It just doesn’t seem reliable. There are a lot of glitches and loopholes people can find.”
One of the glitches students have faced is that the app continuously signs students out, thus turning off location services and tracking ability until students sign back in again. The app will also occasionally display a completed daily symptoms form when students haven’t yet submitted their daily forms. Other students have reported a delay between the time their COVID-19 results come in on the Aura website and when they appear as an update on the app.
“I’d say that the app was a good idea,” said Lesley Ortega, a senior from Dallas. “However, the functionality of it is inefficient because we are unable to log in our symptoms twice a day as required by the college and students might not be accurately recording their symptoms because there is no option to gauge the severity of their symptoms.”
Alexis Robinson, a junior from Agoura Hills, Calif., realized that the app’s data collection is a necessary component of an on-campus semester, which many college students across the country don’t get the chance to do this fall. Michigan State University, Kalamazoo College, Notre Dame and Harvard are just a few examples of institutions that have moved online this semester.
“The way I am looking at it is that in this current moment, due to the state of the world, I am required to give up certain freedoms that I once had so I may continue my education in the way I want, which is to be here on campus,” said Robinson. “Back home, so many of my friends are not even allowed to be on their campuses and were denied housing. So, even though I may not be happy with the app, I am grateful for it because it allows me to be here.”