Penn State, Syracuse and Purdue are three of the latest universities to punish students who are violating the social distancing guidelines that were set to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus on campus.
Penn State University
Videos posted to TikTok and Twitter show hundreds of Penn State students partying outside of University Park dorms, which are known to be freshmen housing, on Wednesday night, just after moving in. Students are seen dancing, chanting and certainly not social distancing, and a majority aren’t wearing masks.
“Wrong on so many levels,” a sophomore at the university wrote on Twitter early Thursday morning. Hours later, the university’s president, Eric Barron, responded with a statement condemning the students involved, noting that the University Park, Pa., school had intervened on Wednesday evening and the crowds had dispersed.
“This behavior cannot and will not be tolerated. We have said from the beginning, health and safety is our priority, and if the University needs to pivot to fully remote instruction, we will,” Barron’s statement reads. “I ask students flouting the University’s health and safety expectations a simple question: Do you want to be the person responsible for sending everyone home?”
According to the statement, the university conducted a “multi-layered testing, monitoring, and mitigating approach” in order to bring students back to campus for in-person learning and will be keeping track of students who don’t comply with the university requirements going forward. “It’s important all students understand that the consequences for violations include possible expulsion,” he wrote.
Barron also disclosed that it wasn’t the first such incident on campus. Earlier that day, the school announced the suspension of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity for mask and social distancing violations.
“The suspension is in response to a gathering hosted by the fraternity on Aug. 18, which exceeded state and local government directives and directly violated the University’s policy which states ‘no socials of any kind’ will be approved for Greek-life organizations amid COVID-19 concerns,” a statement from the university reads. “Anonymous reports, which included photos and videos shared on social media, depicted more than 15 individuals gathered indoors not wearing face coverings or participating in physical distancing.”
The statement goes on to address the requirements outlined in the university’s COVID-19 Compact made in accordance with public health recommendations and those made by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf for higher education, which all students were required to acknowledge and agree to in order to register for courses and return to campus. “Failure to adhere to the requirements may subject you to disciplinary action, including suspension or expulsion from the University,” a page explaining the compact reads.
Related: Penn State University students party on campus
An almost identical incident took place at the freshmen dorms at Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y., on Wednesday, when “a large group of first-year students selfishly jeopardized the very thing that so many of you claim to want from Syracuse University — that is, a chance at a residential college experience,” according to a statement from Mike Haynie, the school’s vice chancellor for strategic initiatives and innovation.
Videos posted to social media show hundreds of students unmasked as they socialized in the quad.
Haynie called the students’ actions “selfish and unsettling,” as he wrote about how their gathering undermines the work that administrators and public health officials have done to ensure that students could return to campus safely. But it’s not just university administration who is speaking out. A number of students have posted to their own social media pages to provide a warning to freshmen that engaging in reckless behavior could get everyone sent home. Some are also sharing that they’ll be reporting any gatherings that they see or hear of.
According to Haynie’s statement, sending students home is a possibility. “Even more selfish and unsettling is how the actions of those students may prevent our seniors from claiming their final year of college on our residential campus,” he wrote. “Even more selfish and unsettling is how the actions of those students could force a situation where some of their classmates may have to vacate the most safe and stable and supportive living situation they have ever known.”
He also confirmed that an investigation is underway and all individuals identified will go through the student conduct process set up to respond to any behavior that doesn’t comply with the university’s Stay Safe Pledge.
“I want you to understand right now and very clearly that we have one shot to make this happen. The world is watching, and they expect you to fail. Prove them wrong,” Haynie wrote. “Be better. Be adults. Think of someone other than yourself. And also, do not test the resolve of this university to take swift action to prioritize the health and well-being of our campus and Central New York community.”
Similar warnings were given at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., after a group of students attended a party on Wednesday at an on-campus men’s co-op called Circle Pines. Purdue spokesperson Tim Doty tells Yahoo Life that the 36 attendees and the co-op itself have been suspended as a result while the university conducts a hearing to determine the final punishment.
According to the Purdue Exponent, an independent student newspaper, the party was broken up by police after somebody had reported the large gathering. Associate vice provost and dean of students Katie Sermersheim told Yahoo Life that the university has been “clear and consistent” with messaging to students in regards to the Protect Purdue plan, made in light of the coronavirus and added to the student code of conduct, as well as the punishment in place for those who fail to adhere to it.
“Please know that we will be taking a hard line on conduct for those engaging in events and activities that run counter to our Protect Purdue commitments. Plainly stated, hosting or attending gatherings and parties where social distancing is not possible and masks are not worn represent violations of the Protect Purdue Pledge; if you don’t abide by rules, there is no place for you here,” a letter sent to students from Sermersheim’s office reads.
Still, she assures Yahoo Life that despite the threat posed by those partying amid the pandemic, the university will continue to do what it can to keep students on campus and attending in-person classes.
“Unfortunately, everything we have done — the months of planning to give our students the opportunity to continue their educational pursuits in person — can be undone in the blink of an eye — with just one party or event that does not follow the rules and guidelines,” she says. “We will continue to call upon our entire university community — faculty, staff, and students — to honor and embrace all aspects of the Protect Purdue plan in order to help us all meet our collective health responsibilities.”
University of Connecticut
Officials at the University of Connecticut also sent a letter to students on Wednesday addressing multiple incidents of students violating social distancing rules on the Storrs, Conn., campus by hosting parties in residence halls. “As a result, the students involved have been removed from campus housing,” president Tom Katsouleas and vice president Carl Lejuez wrote. “Separately, over the weekend, seven students were written up for minor infractions.”
Similar to the statements from other universities, the administrators acknowledged the systems put in place to keep students safe from the spread of the coronavirus on campus. “While cooperation is overwhelmingly positive, we also know there are cases of noncompliance. It is important for us to share that we take these very seriously, and we will and have taken action to keep UConn and our surrounding communities safe,” the statement continues. “We are in this together, Huskies — let’s rise to meet this challenge and protect our community.”
University administrators from these campuses note that their responses are heightened as a result of viral videos showing students at schools such as the University of North Georgia and Oklahoma State University gathering maskless earlier in the week.
Photos of students disregarding social distancing protocol at the University of Alabama even prompted a response from Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox.
While many colleges and universities continue to put protocols in place, require that students sign pledges and place sanctions on individuals who disregard the regulations, some have made the difficult decision to pivot from in-person classes to online learning after the number of the coronavirus cases on campus were on the rise within the first few weeks of the semester. This list thus far includes the University of Notre Dame, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Michigan State. By the looks of college campuses on social media, however, the number of schools on that list is likely to grow.
For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.
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