A Rising Threat: How Schools Are Addressing In-Person Gatherings

As cases rise on college campuses across the country, a key contributor has emerged: in-person gatherings. Campuses have issued guidelines, restrictions, and even suspensions to deter large, in-person gatherings, but students continue to meet both on and off of campuses. With rising cases threatening in-person classes and operations—so much so that schools could be forced to go completely virtual in the fall—campuses have ramped up the battle against in-person gatherings.

An article in Politico covers how schools are addressing in-person gatherings. The article particularly highlights Florida State University’s messaging, including in an official message from President John Thrasher that shares his grave concerns.

“While the majority of our students are acting with consideration and concern for others, the irresponsible and reckless behavior of a few puts any hope of the campus remaining open in jeopardy for all of us,” Thrasher said.

Schools such as the University of Wyoming have also shared updates on how they’re handling rising cases, especially those linked to off-campus parties. 

“With our rigorous program of testing, tracing and quarantine, we still have an opportunity to have a successful semester -- but only if we all do what we know we should: avoid large gatherings, wear face protection, practice physical distancing and follow proper hygiene measures,” Wyoming President Ed Seidel said. “If you fail to follow this guidance and come into contact with an infected individual, you could face a 14-day quarantine as required by the Department of Health to protect our entire community.”

Other schools have similarly issued official policy updates and statements to address rising cases linked to in-person gatherings, including the University of Arizona, the University of Alabama, Kent State University, Vanderbilt University, and the University at Buffalo. University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins expressed similar concerns to Seidel. “We encourage everyone: Please do not have large gatherings," Robbins said. "We know [gatherings are] ripe for transmission of this deadly virus." 

At the University of Buffalo, university officials worked directly with local police to quell on-campus gatherings. “In accordance with the University at Buffalo’s health guidelines on events and gatherings, UB Police dispersed several small groups of students who ere socializing outside of an Ellicott Complex residence hall,” the news release said.

Buffalo isn’t the only school to work with local police and governments to limit in-person gatherings. Washington State University, Western Illinois University, James Madison University, and the University of Connecticut have made concerted efforts with local authorities to handle rising cases linked to college campuses. Possible repercussions for students include mandatory quarantines and suspensions.

Despite enhanced efforts, schools face an uphill climb to stabilize rising cases linked to in-person gatherings. Many schools have worked to restore in-person classes and operations for the fall semester, but all their progress may be cut short if students continue to ignore and break policies. It’s a dire situation, but with increased monitoring, transparency, and consequences, perhaps schools can weather the storm for a “normal” fall semester.

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