Students notice flaws with Trojan Check in first weeks of school

Long lines outside of testing facilities and glitches in daily symptom assessments plague the university’s COVID-19 safety policy.

Photo shows a long line of students outside of a COVID-19 testing facility.

Some students have noticed flaws with the Trojan Check system in the first few weeks of school.

Trojan Check, which includes weekly COVID-19 Pop Testing and symptom screening, is required for every student and USC employees to access campus. The app is intended to limit and prevent COVID-19 cases on campus. Since July, over 100,000 tests have been administered for students, faculty and staff, according to the USC COVID-19 Resource Center.

For students to pass Trojan Check and get a QR code that allows them entry on campus, they must be vaccinated, test negative for COVID-19 within the past week, have completed a health and safety online training and have also passed a daily wellness questionnaire, attesting to no symptoms.

In accordance with L.A. County’s recommendation for daily screenings for symptoms, the Trojan Check wellness assessment prompts a series of “yes/no” questions which then provides a day pass that is scanned by Care Crew staffers who are stationed at each entrance on campus.

Despite USC’s policies, students said they have encountered difficulties and have reported workarounds to completing Trojan Check’s wellness assessment to attend class. Reddit user, u/Crafty_Clasher, even created an iOS shortcut to automatically complete Trojan Check.

“I don’t think it’s that effective,” said computer science major Mahum Syed. “People can just lie on it.”

Chief Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman said that the university is aware that students may bypass some of the COVID-19 protocols in place. “We all have ways to subvert systems that are designed to keep us safe and meet our community responsibilities,” Van Orman said.

This echoes the sentiments found in a USC Student Health report from Aug. 27 which depicts the many different COVID-19 protocols in place as a “swiss-cheese” model of defense, in which “no single intervention is perfect at preventing spread,” according to the graphic.

While students are required to sign in with their USC email address that verifies their compliance with weekly COVID-19 testing, some have taken advantage of the guest pass feature, which doesn’t require a sign in, to get on campus without fulfilling the testing requirements.

“I actually missed my COVID test drop-off by a day, and I had to sign up for a guest pass,” said art history major James Clark.

Van Orman said that students who fail to show up to regular testing will be reported to USC Student Affairs.

Students have expressed concerns about the validity of Trojan Check in keeping sick students away from class. While USC, along with professors, have encouraged students to stay home if they experience any symptoms, it is up to the professor’s discretion to offer an alternative.

“People are going to keep coming in sick if they have no way to view lectures from home,” said Reddit user u/shitshowcentral.

Current university policy states that faculty “do not need to use [zoom links] for in-person classes when all students are in attendance, but they are there as a resource in the event you wish to stream or record your class for absent students.”

Additionally, students have faced issues with completing the weekly COVID-19 tests to fulfill Trojan Check. With over 37,000 tests completed this week and two sample collection sites on the University Park Campus, some students said they have experienced long wait times for COVID-19 test drop-offs, prompting the creation of an Instagram account, @HowLongIsTheCovidTestLine. Van Orman also said that there were delays in test results the week of Sept. 6 due to Labor Day.

Chance Jones, a molecular biology doctoral candidate, said the university could set up more drop off locations to ease the wait time, which he said, in his experience, could be as long as 30 minutes to an hour.

“How did [USC] not prepare their system?” Jones said. “They knew far beforehand how many kids would be coming. How in the world were they so unprepared?”

Though some have complained about the Trojan Check process, students Aaron Baharver and Minh Nguyen expressed feeling safer on campus as a result of mandatory COVID-19 testing and wellness assessments. However, “it might be a false sense of security,” said Clark.

Despite the “false sense of security,” USC currently has an infection rate of 0.4% with students and 0.9% with staff, which is lower than LA County’s rate.

“We don’t want to have to enforce any of this, so I just ask people to think about whether they have to have enforcement and punishment for doing the right thing,” Van Orman said. “I’d like to think that...if you’re a Trojan and a part of this community, you understand why we are doing this.”

This story was updated on Sept. 9 at 11 a.m. to include the university’s response to Trojan Check issues students have reported and quotes from Van Orman.