The Complete and Compete Challenge may be the University’s last attempt at enticing students to protect the campus community — a task for which any grateful student shouldn’t need a bribe. 

The University looked at last semester’s pitiful compliance rates, and chose to reward students for their bad behavior, giving them a chance to earn prizes for their changed ways. We’re lucky the University chose positive reinforcement, because, frankly, we don’t deserve it. 

Being on campus has become a privilege during the pandemic, one we must actively earn. Maintaining this privilege should be a constant focus for students. But instead, we need emails, text messages, newsletters, and even public health ambassadors to remind us of the in-person experiences we think we’re entitled to. 

This is COVID-19, and we all need to step up. As University Health Services Director Ralph A. Manchester said in his recent message to students, “We cannot afford to be complacent right now […] In order to continue the in-person semester together, we need to feel the sense of urgency to reduce our case numbers by making smart, personal decisions.” 

Being forgetful or just careless is not a valid option — not at a time like this. Not when you’re being asked to contribute mere seconds of your time. You can’t try to pass yourself off as a responsible, productive member of the UR community if you’re not willing to do the right thing. 

If you can’t find the decency in your heart and the logic in your mind to fill out Dr. Chatbot without a material incentive, you don’t deserve your on-campus privilege.

Can the constant Dr. Chatbot notifications be a little irritating? Yes. But it’s not supposed to be fun; it’s supposed to be serious. It’s supposed to remind you of the world we live in right now, because we cannot afford to forget it. And the multiple notifications wouldn’t be necessary if we were actually filling it out. 

A pause will happen. A shutdown will happen. More students and faculty will become infected if we continue to be complacent. And we will be responsible. 

Knowing that, how can we stand by and feel good about this so-called challenge? 

Filling out Dr. Chatbot is a responsibility, one that should come with repercussions, not perks. The Complete and Compete Challenge is teaching students to do the right thing only with the promise of compensation, not to find it within themselves to do it on their own. With this challenge, the University is setting a precedent that may come back to bite them. 

If the University really wanted us to recognize the grave circumstances we live in, to realize that the fate of our campus rests in our hands, there would be consequences for students who don’t comply with COVID-19 policies, including Dr. Chatbot.

The University should establish an expectation to do the right thing without compensation, without nagging, and certainly without the Complete and Compete Challenge. And if we were really the competent, caring community we pretend to be, we wouldn’t have allowed the University to set a counterproductive precedent like this in the first place.

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