Universities across America are banning ‘sleepovers’ and parties and threatening students with expulsion for breaking the rules, as they attempt to dodge COVID-19 outbreaks when semesters resume in the fall.
The University of Texas has banned all parties both on and off campus, warning students that they put ‘the health and safety of our community at risk and raise anxiety levels.’
Overnight and daytime guests in the residence halls have also been given a red flag by the university – a similar move to that made by the University of Pennsylvania.
Officials at the Ivy League institution have warned students not to have ‘guests’ in their ‘personal space’ on campus and have also ‘strongly discouraged’ sleepovers off campus during the course of the semester.
The clampdown on college life comes as several universities welcome students back to their campuses as soon as this month with several coronavirus safety protocols in place, including reduced classroom capacity, mask mandates and social distancing measures.
However, while classrooms and campus grounds are being adapted to limit the spread of the virus, concerns are ramping up over how institutions can ensure young people away from home for the first time aren’t tempted to flout the rules in their personal time.
‘Every college administrator and college president understands that this is a pretty tenuous thing that they’re trying to do,’ Kevin Kruger, the president of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, told USA Today.
‘How you control the behavior of a large number of adolescents in spaces that are not under institutional control is a big challenge.’
Several universities have put in place rules and regulations banning parties or gatherings – something that is as much a staple of university life as classroom learning.
Some institutions have gone as far as threatening students with expulsion if they break the rules and attend parties.
Tulane University in New Orleans’ students face suspension or even expulsion if they throw or attend a party with more than 15 people.
Erica Woodley, dean of students, sent a letter to students on July 7 warning them their future at the institution will be in jeopardy if they don’t follow the rules.
‘DO NOT HOST PARTIES OR GATHERINGS WITH MORE THAN 15 PEOPLE, INCLUDING THE HOST,’ she wrote.
‘IF YOU DO, YOU WILL FACE SUSPENSION OR EXPULSION FROM THE UNIVERSITY.’
Parties of less than 15 must observe social distancing and all attendees must wear masks, she added.
The private research university is also asking students to rat out their dorm mates and peers if they see them breaking the rules.
Syracuse University has also taken a punitive approach to the COVID-19 rules.
A fraternity was suspended for breaking social distancing rules back in the spring and this week another group of students was turfed out for violating New York quarantine orders.
The interim suspension on the group of students comes less than a week after they were welcomed back to the campus.
The unidentified group of freshmans broke the state’s mandatory two week quarantine rules for people arriving from 35 states with high infection rates, the school said Thursday.
‘Our students have expressed repeatedly their desire to be on campus this fall,’ said spokeswoman Sarah Scalese.
‘Our ability to resume residential learning is very much dependent on our community’s behavior and willingness to adhere to public health guidelines.’
Concerns are building that such measures will not go far enough to ensuring the safety of students and staff as thousands return to campuses this fall.
‘You’ve added a factor that would maybe make students reluctant to tell anybody where they were or who they’re with if they were going to be consequences,’ Kruger told USA Today, adding that excluding students will make contact tracing from an outbreak much more difficult.
Judson Horras, the president of the North American Interfraternity Conference, told USA Today enforcement will be especially difficult in off-campus settings and away from fraternities and sororities.
‘If they see across the street alumni or student groups tailgating or having events that aren’t in a fraternity house it will fall apart,’ said Horras.
Student activist groups have also cast doubt on the ability of colleges to clamp down on student behavior.
The Coalition Against Fraternities and Sexual Violence (CAFSA), an activist group at the University of Pennsylvania, mocked the idea that fraternities will comply with the rules in a social media post.
‘So you’re saying that frats on locust *aren’t* going to be throwing parties this fall? Lmao!!! Good one!!!’ the group wrote.
Movement for Black Lives at University of Kentucky also said it was unlikely 18-year-olds would follow the rules.
‘You trust a bunch of 18 and mid 20 kids who burned down a car on state street because they beat Florida to not attend a IFC party? Not to go to Tin Roof?’ the group tweeted this week.
‘Seems like a bit of willful ignorance.’
US universities began shifting to online learning back in March when the virus spread across the country.
Some institutions including Harvard have taken the decision to continue with a remote learning model with the exception of students who are without a suitable home working environment.
But the vast majority are starting to welcome thousands of students back ahead of their fall semesters and research shows students are jumping at the chance.
Three in four students said they plan to return to campus if their schools give them the option, according to poll from College Reaction and Axios.
This comes despite virus cases soaring across the country, with a dire new forecast predicting nearly 300,000 Americans will die from COVID-19 before the end of the year.
More than 160,000 Americans have so far been killed by the virus and 4.9 million have been infected.