“Jackets Infect Jackets” addresses community issues

Students participated in a “die-in” protest on the first day of school. Many signs stressed the dangers of in-person classes. // Photo by Taylor Gray Student Publications

Even before classes began last Monday, the Instagram account Jackets Infect Jackets became an active participant in the debate surrounding in-person classes and on-campus housing at the Institute. The name of the account is a play on the Institute’s tagline for this semester, Jackets Protect Jackets.

The account posts pictures of students violating social distancing norms and some of Tech’s relatively lackluster approaches to enforcing physical separation and cleanliness. The accound also posts first hand accounts from RAs and PLs who document their treatment by the Institute and the behavior of first year students.

Along with similar posts on the r/gatech subreddit, the posts have received hundreds of likes and many comments, both positive and negative.

After seeing the effectiveness of callout posts on platforms like Twitter, the creator, a student at the Institute who has asked to remain anonymous, decided that the bold, in-your-face format would be well suited to calling attention to Tech’s lapses in COVID-19 protection.

The Instagram account collects tips and pictures from students and then reposts them, giving students an anonymous platform to voice their concerns.

The submission-based format has also opened up the account to criticism, as people who dislike the abrasive nature have left rude and hateful messages attacking the account’s content and its creator.

First year students have been the target of many of the Jackets Infect Jackets online posts. This is for good reason, as these students are living in communal housing where COVID-19 is more likely to spread among inhabitants.

Though the housing department decided to completely do away with quad rooms for safety purposes, this has not stopped gatherings inside of dorms, often with social distancing and mask regulations thrown to the wind, an accusation documented on the Jackets Infect Jackets page itself.

Submissions from RAs and PLs are frequent on the page and serve as a primary source about the conditions in on-campus residence halls.

“Went on a duty round tonight and encountered multiple people not wearing masks in the dorms,” wrote an anonymous submission to the page, published on Aug. 18.

“I had to break up a group of 10+ people playing poker in a tiny lounge, barely any wearing masks. Extremely frustrated that this type of behavior is what’s going to land us with Covid clusters in residence halls and there’s not much we can do about it,” the post continued.

Fraternities and sororities present another possible hotbed for the coronavirus, both as communal housing and as a possible source of parties.

Certain Greek organizations have already been called out by the Instagram account, for events such as off-campus parties in the Home Park neighborhood and an alleged party at a Midtown bar, Churchill’s — one that “had a $5000 tab … with tons of people (girls and guys) getting drunk and not social distancing obviously,” according to an anonymous submission published Aug. 19.

The Jackets Infect Jackets account’s creator said that the situation was “not ideal, especially with the lack of people wearing masks or social distancing, it’s putting us all at risk”.

From March to August, Tech’s campus has seen more than 350 cases of the coronavirus, among students, staff and faculty.

To combat further increases in COVID-19 numbers, the Institute has implemented a testing policy based on the large scale surveillance testing of saliva samples with follow-up nasal swabs for people with samples showing signs of the coronavirus.

Tech also suggests that students and anyone on campus download the contact tracing app NOVID onto their smartphones, so that interactions can be logged and exposed individuals can be notified.

Despite these precautions in place, the Jackets Infect Jackets Instagram account’s creator said that they hoped the administration would continue to take notice of the failings being pointed out by the account.

The creator wishes the Institute will begin to transition to fully online classes, instead of a combination of online, hybrid and in-person classes.

The anonymous creator additionally hopes to see the Institute be more forthcoming with information about how the administration is working to keep students safe.

Hopefully, administration will get the message and will start being more transparent about how many members of the campus community have been infected by the novel coronavirus so far this semester.