Students and organizations who do not comply with the University’s gathering capacity, mask wearing and social distancing guidelines will face disciplinary action, Dean of Students Allen Groves stressed in a video message to students Saturday. The University has already received reports of “significant non-compliance,” he added, which the University classifies as conduct that “intentionally or recklessly threatens the health or safety of the University community.”
Students are required to limit all gatherings, whether inside or out, to 15 people; wear masks any time they leave their residence, which includes mask-wearing in shared portions of residence hall environments; and to maintain a physical distance of six feet between themselves and others.
These guidelines apply on- and off-Grounds, and students in violation may face sanctioning through the University Judiciary Committee and, in serious cases, suspension, according to Groves. Students who are choosing to learn on-Grounds or live in the local community signed a form that served as an acknowledgement and agreement to comply with public health measures.
Groves cited peer institutions which have taken swift action suspending students who participated in large gatherings. At Virginia Tech, seven students were suspended for off-campus activities that put public health at risk. Purdue University suspended 36 students who attended an off-campus party.
“I need you to understand that we will do the same,” Groves said. “A suspension for violating these public health norms will be immediate and for the full semester at a minimum, with no opportunity to continue your courses in-person or online.”
The University will also enforce actions taken by student groups such as CIOs, club sports teams and Greek life fraternities and sororities, Groves said, which can mean terminating the group’s agreement and affiliation with the University — consequences that will be enforced immediately, not after “a series of warnings or strikes.”
The message comes the weekend before classes begin online Tuesday, which typically marks the annual celebration of Block Party at student houses and apartments along Wertland Street. Last month, Groves criticized students who kept up annual Midsummers festivities this year, calling the behavior “selfish and ignorant.”
“If such behavior continues, we will not make it long into the fall semester before a significant outbreak occurs and we then need to send students home,” Groves wrote following the incident.
The University collects reports of public health guideline violations that are submitted by students, faculty and staff through the COVID-19 Compliance Reporting tab on Just Report It. It also developed a separate reporting portal for soliciting concerns from residents of the larger local community. Community members can submit details of observations, including supporting photos, videos and documents identifying possible violations. The form allows reporters to identify the date, time and location of the incident, as well as the identity of any known participants and a description of their behavior.
"I share your desire to be on-Grounds this fall," Groves concluded. "I miss the energy you bring to this place, and like you, I want us to succeed. So let's step up and do this together."