coronavirus

Coronavirus on Campus: Colleges Cracking Down on Parties Amid COVID Concerns

At least a half dozen New England schools have reported problems so far

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Classes haven't even started yet at many New England colleges, but already problems are starting to crop up on local campuses as students fail to abide by restrictions put in place by administrators as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Schools in Boston and throughout the region have seemed to fare better than many in other parts of U.S., but there have still been some issues reported.

Here's a look at some of the schools where incidents have been reported so far, by state:

Massachusetts

College of Holy Cross, Worcester: More than 20 College of the Holy Cross students have tested positive for the coronavirus after a party. A spokesperson for the college said students who hold parties will be held accountable, The Republican reported. The party was held off campus in mid-August. Holy Cross is among dozens of New England colleges welcoming students back to school this month and next. The school is hosting a remote fall semester, but some students are living on campus.

Northeastern University, Boston: An Instagram poll that asked incoming freshmen at Northeastern University whether they plan to party when they arrive on campus prompted a stern warning from administrators earlier this month. Official letters sent to 115 students threatened to rescind their admission to the university if they didn't send a reply acknowledging that they will comply with the code of conduct. The poll, which was posted on the account northeasternclassof24, surfaced as the school prepares to reopen for the fall semester during the coronavirus pandemic. Classes begin this week; so far, 10 students at Northeastern have tested positive for the coronavirus after over 20,000 tests, according to the school's COVID-19 dashboard. In the wake of the Northeastern report, Boston University told its students that any of them who are involved with any unsanctioned large parties or gatherings, on-campus or off, this semester will be suspended. Likewise, student organizations or sports teams that host parties of 25 people or more -- the maximum for indoor gatherings in Massachusetts -- will be suspended as well.

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More than 100 incoming students responded to an Instagram poll saying they planned to party on campus.

New Hampshire

University of New Hampshire, Durham: Images of a large group of students gathered around a bonfire at the University of New Hampshire raised eyebrows last week over the risk of spreading the coronavirus. Students appeared to be grouped closely together in photos of an ice cream social organized by university staff for freshman moving back to campus. School spokeswoman Erika Mantz said the people at the event were in "acceptable physically distanced small groups broken down by residence hall floors." However, she added that as the event broke up, smaller groups gathered, "resulting in the photos depicting an inappropriate-sized gathering." The gathering took place outside of first-year dorms Williamson and Christensen, according to the university's newspaper The New Hampshire, and dispersed after people complained about the lack of social distancing. Mantz noted that the "vast majority" of students were wearing masks, but said the university staff will make sure future social events meet coronavirus safety standards "from beginning to end." Vice Provost Kenneth Holmes sent an email out to campus encouraging people to report coronavirus-related incidents and urging them to take precautions like mask-wearing and social distancing. The email references an Aug. 24 off-campus party where people were not complying with coronavirus policies and three students were arrested for under-aged drinking.

After an off-campus party was busted by Durham police students at the University of New Hampshire have been issued a warning amid concerns of the coronavirus.

Connecticut

University of Connecticut, Storrs: UConn officials said several students were removed from their housing after violating social distancing guidelines by hosting a dormitory party earlier this month. The disciplinary action came after a video, confirmed by UCONN officials, surfaced on social media. It showed a large gathering of people in one student’s dorm room. Loud music was playing while students held red party cups. Some students were not wearing masks. There are currently 57 coronavirus cases on campus and 14 off-campus.

Central Connecticut State, New Britain: Multiple students from Central Connecticut State University have tested positive for COVID-19 and school officials said they have connected many of the positive cases to two off-campus gatherings. School officials said 11 commuter students and one resident student/staff tested positive for COVID-19 last week. "I wanted to bring to your attention that we are seeing a slight uptick in the number of students who have tested positive for COVID-19. Though this is not unexpected during the first week of testing, it is extremely disappointing how some of these students became infected," CCSU President Zulma R. Toro said in a statement. She said that failure to wear a face mask, maintain physical distancing, and limit indoor gatherings to 25 people and outdoor gatherings to 50 may result in suspension or expulsion from the university.

Rhode Island

Providence College: Seventeen Providence College students have been suspended for violating the school’s code of conduct about the pandemic. Rev. Kenneth Sicard, the college’s president, described the students’ actions as “selfish behavior.” He added that more sanctions could be imposed by the college. “We have emphasized strongly that actions that endanger themselves and others during this pandemic will not be tolerated at Providence College,” Sicard wrote.

Maine

While no major issues have been reported on college campuses in Maine, officials said this week that there are nine active cases of COVID-19 at University of Maine System campuses, a spokesperson for the system said Sunday. All of the individuals are in isolation, the spokesman said. The cases involve students and employees. The cases are at the main University of Maine campus in Orono as well as University of Maine Farmington, University of Southern Maine and University of Maine School of Law.

Vermont

Vermont colleges have also not reported any major issues, but officials in the state's largest city, Burlington, proposed new emergency rules for the city's bars and for gatherings to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Mayor Miro Weinberger proposed that bars stop selling alcohol at 10 p.m. and that outside gatherings on residential properties be limited to 25 people. Indoor gatherings would be restricted to 10 people, with families excluded. Police plan to inform residents in neighborhoods around the University of Vermont of the changes. Violators could be ticketed or bars could be fined. Nearly 12,000 UVM students have decided to return to campus, said UVM President Suresh Garimella. They are being tested before they arrive and upon arrival. He said 8,700 pre-arrival tests were ordered and of the 1,150 results that have come back, two were positive. Since Aug. 7, 955 students have been tested on campus and two of those tested positive. Five students who were living off campus before the move-in date and one staff member have also tested positive for COVID-19.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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