As many colleges and universities nationwide are beginning in-person instruction for the fall semester, campus officials are working to curb off-campus parties and events where COVID-19 mitigation strategies are not taking place.
During a Sunday interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Dr. Robert Robbins, President of The University of Arizona, said off-campus activities are “the big issue” when it comes to preventing a spike in coronaviruses cases upon resuming in-person instruction.
“I think we all know that we can control things in the classroom and on-campus,” he said, adding many colleges are now working “aggressively” to monitor off-campus parties and gatherings and intervene when necessary.
Northern Arizona University is scheduled to begin offering in-person instruction on August 31. At both the University of Arizona and Arizona State University, students living in dormitories are required to undergo a COVID-19 test before moving in. UArizona and ASU are also beginning random testing for students taking part in on-campus instruction.
Both University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and the University of Notre Dame were recently forced to cease in-person instruction due to a spike in coronaviruses cases in their campus communities. Administrators for both have said they believe off-campus parties and gatherings were a factor.
During the Sunday morning interview, Robbins said students who are violating social distancing guidelines or mask usage can face punishment up to expulsion through the University’s code of conduct.
On Saturday night, Kevin Redifer, an ASU undergraduate student, posted video of a large group of young people waiting in line outside a home near ASU’s Tempe campus to, according to Redifer, enter a house party. Some people appeared to be wearing masks or face coverings but none appeared to be social distancing. Redifer said it was the second party he observed at the same house since ASU classes began for the semester.
In a statement to ABC15, ASU spokesperson Chris Fiscus said:
When the university becomes aware of an incident, the Dean of Students will contact all students who are identified as attending the party. We have been clear about the expectations for all members of the ASU community as we return to campus. Large social gatherings pose a threat to public health and violate our Student Code of Conduct. ASU will take disciplinary action against any and all ASU students who organize - and attend - such gatherings. Possible discipline ranges from warnings to suspension and expulsion from the university. ASU will contact the owners and landlords of off-campus homes at which such parties take place.
The good news is that the vast majority of ASU students are acting responsibly, wearing face coverings and practicing physical distancing and following other Community of Care protocols during this global health crisis. This is the only way we can successfully manage the spread of COVID-19.
If the university is made aware of social gatherings that disregard public health protocols, the university will take action. Individuals or groups choosing to ignore the rules not only jeopardize their own health, but the health of others. We need all members of the ASU community to do their part and adhere to public health guidelines in order to have a successful semester.