No parties, no trips: Colleges set COVID-19 rules for fall
As they struggle to salvage some semblance of a campus experience this fall, U.S. colleges are requiring promises from students to help contain the coronavirus — no keg parties, no long road trips and no outside guests on campus.
No kidding. Administrators warn that failure to wear masks, practice social distancing and avoid mass gatherings could bring serious consequences, including getting booted from school.
Critics question whether it’s realistic to demand that college students not act like typical college students. But the push illustrates the high stakes for universities planning to welcome at least some students back. Wide-scale COVID-19 testing, quarantines and plexiglass barriers in classrooms won’t work if too many students misbehave.
“I think that the majority of students are going to be really respectful and wear their masks, social distance, keep gatherings small,” said incoming Tulane University senior Sanjali De Silva. “But I fear that there will be a distinct group of students that will decide not to do that. And it’ll be a big bummer.”
The emphasis on student behavior is part of a broader effort to create safe bubbles on campus even if the virus surges elsewhere. The University of Texas at Austin is not allowing parties either on or off campus. In Massachusetts, Amherst College is prohibiting students from traveling off campus except in certain cases, such as medical appointments and family emergencies.
Many universities have spelled out expectations for student behavior in pledges and compacts that cover everything from mask wearing to off-campus travel. The pledges often cover faculty and staff, too.
It’s unclear how well these rules will work. Critics say the very nature of the college experience — with cramped housing and intense social activity — works against success. Some colleges are already backing off plans for in-person classes this fall.
Outbreaks involving fraternities have already been reported at some schools, including the University of Southern California, the University of Washington and the University of Mississippi. The University of California at Berkeley recently decided to begin the fall semester with fully remote instruction after a local flare-up of cases linked to fraternity parties.
The pledges apply the advice public health officials have been giving since March for college settings. Yale’s compact includes a commitment to remain in Connecticut during the fall semester through Nov. 21 and a promise not to “invite or host non-Yale-affiliated individuals” on campus without permission. Ohio State University’s “Together As Buckeyes Pledge ” includes a promise to conduct daily health checks.
Cornell University students must agree not to organize, host or attend events that may cause “safety risks” to people, under a school compact released this week. University of Pennsylvania students are warned in the school’s compact that alcohol and drugs are not an excuse for risky COVID-19-related behavior. Syracuse University’s pledge includes commitments to get a flu shot and to avoid going to social gatherings with more than 25 people.
Failure to comply with the pledges will be treated as a disciplinary violation.
Syracuse students can face “serious consequences” for violating COVID-19 guidance, and students who host large parties could face sanctions up to suspension and expulsion, according to the school’s web site.
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