Texas Tech University officials are investigating after a video of a young woman boasting about having COVID-19 spread online. The woman recorded herself at an outdoor party and proclaimed that the entire group was infected with the virus. None of the attendees appeared to be wearing masks.
The clip was shared on social media on September 5 and quickly went viral. The Twitter user who posted it, Taylor Smith, captioned the video: “What’s happening at Texas Tech. Side note, I do not know this girl but she was brave enough to post this for others to see! If you are selfish like this with no regards for others safety, f*** off!”
Health officials have expressed concern about the rise of coronavirus cases on college campuses. Recent outbreaks have been linked to large gatherings as students head back to school, according to CNN, with more than 40,000 cases reported among students and staff nationwide.
Here’s what you need to know:
Social Media Users Identified the Young Woman as Alpha Phi Sorority Member Kaleigh Schmidt
anywayyyyys went to hs with her and here’s some info to report this video cause everything that’s she’s been doing is not okay pic.twitter.com/JQd3wCT8XQ
— sarita (@bdtmwfi) September 8, 2020
In the video, the young woman says, “Everyone’s like, ‘Kaleigh, don’t you have COVID? Don’t you literally have COVID?’ Yes, I f****** have COVID, the whole f****** world has COVID. All of these people have COVID. So stop getting on my tip, stop getting on my tip. Like, I’m having a good time.”
Social media users named the young woman in the clip as student Kaleigh Schmidt and said she was a member of the Alpha Phi sorority. A search of Schmidt’s name brings up an Instagram account that mentions Texas Tech, but the page has been suspended or deleted. Schmidt also appears to have deleted her Twitter page.
An account on the photo app VSCO bearing her name was still active as of this writing. The @kshaee account includes a recent photo of Schmidt wearing a shirt with the words “Texas Alpha Phi” on it. She captioned the photo “See ya in Lubbock,” where the university is located.
Schmidt’s most recent photo was posted on September 4, one day before the party video was shared on Twitter.
Many Twitter users posted comments condemning the young woman’s actions, with some people calling for her to be expelled from Texas Tech. A few people came to her defense, such as one young woman who identified herself as a Texas Tech alum. She tweeted: “I’m not saying partying during this time isn’t selfish af, but before you post something about someone you have no idea about, causing tons of people to tear her down personally, her covid tests were negative & you’re targeting one person when the whole town of LBK is doing it.”
I’m not saying partying during this time isn’t selfish af, but before you post something about someone you have no idea about, causing tons of people to tear her down personally, her covid tests were negative & you’re targeting one person when the whole town of LBK is doing it
— raegan rychlik (@rraeganrychlikk) September 6, 2020
Texas Tech’s President Warned in a Letter to Students That the Virus Was Spreading at Off-Campus Parties
We have received a report and are aware of a video related to COVID. The matter is being addressed by the Office of the Dean of Students and Student Conduct.
— TTU Dean of Students (@TTUDeanStudents) September 7, 2020
Texas Tech officials, as well as the Alpha Phi sorority, have been alerted to the party video. The university shared on Twitter on September 6: “We have received a report and are aware of a video related to COVID. The matter is being addressed by the Office of the Dean of Students and Student Conduct.”
The university has kept a running tally of the number of COVID cases reported on campus. As of September 9, the school had identified 951 students and 104 employees who had tested positive for the virus. University president Lawrence Schovanec warned in a letter to students that the majority of cases appeared to stem from parties happening off-campus. In the letter, which was shared on September 3, Schovanec urged students to take steps to protect the lives of others:
Over the last few days, we’ve seen a notable increase in positive COVID-19 cases in our campus community, with the majority of these cases among our students who live off campus. While we anticipated positive cases and planned for this situation, it is disappointing that we are at this point less than two weeks into the semester. The great majority of you are following the protocols we outlined in the Texas Tech Commitment, but those who are not are placing our entire campus community at risk.
We know, through our contact tracing efforts, that most of our positive cases are the result of parties and other social gatherings that are taking place off campus. Although our current number of active cases are about 1% of our university population, if this rise in positive cases continues, we are prepared to make significant adjustments to our plans. This move would go against everything we have worked so hard to provide in terms of an on-campus collegiate experience.
Few Students Signed the University’s Online Pledge to Prevent the Spread of the Virus
Before the start of the school year, Texas Tech explained that the university was taking steps to protect students and prevent the coronavirus from spreading. The plan, referred to as the Texas Tech Commitment, included “enhanced sanitization efforts, resources for health screenings, access to personal protective equipment, workplace and classroom wellness guidance, and social distancing protocols.”
University officials also asked students to sign an online pledge and complete a COVID-19 prevention course. The pledge on the Student Affairs page asks students to vow to abide by social distancing guidelines, meet in small groups, wear a mask, stay home if feeling sick and to report any symptoms to the student health department. But of the more than 38,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled, fewer than 800 have participated in the online pledge, according to the university website.