In the past week, there have been reports that Cornell University, New York University, Northeastern University, Ohio State University, St. Bonaventure University, the State University of New York at Cobleskill, West Virginia University, and the University of Maryland College Park have suspended students for not complying with COVID-related rules on social distancing and mask-wearing. Some of these suspensions prevent students from accessing their education online, as well as in person. Furthermore, many schools are refusing to refund tuition or housing fees for suspended students. Clearly, colleges and universities have a responsibility to protect the students and faculty on campus from COVID, and without consequences for students who flout social distancing rules, the schools have little power to enforce them. Yet, colleges should have predicted that students would attempt to socialize in groups if brought back for on-campus housing or in-person classes. After all, socializing is one of the biggest reasons undergraduate students want to live at school.
In any case, if you are a student attending college in person and/or living on campus or nearby, you can take some precautions to protect yourself from suspension for COVID-related violations:
- Know the Rules:
- First, know your school’s policies regarding social distancing regarding your dorm, in-person class, and outside on campus. You are expected to follow any and all which apply to you. Policies at colleges and universities may change as the situation evolves, so familiarize yourself with updates.
- If you are living or socializing off-campus, know the local ordinances regarding social distancing and the consequences for violating these rules (tickets? fines?). (Similarly, if you are renting a private apartment or house, make sure you know the landlord’s rules. Similarly, if you are living in a sorority or fraternity house, make sure you follow your Greek house’s rules for social distancing in the house.)
- Familiarize yourself with your school’s code of student conduct. Off-campus infractions (crimes, citations, certain driving infractions) are often a basis for school discipline. A school’s determination of responsibility for the student is not necessarily dependent on whether the student was found guilty. Furthermore, local police sometimes notify schools of police reports regarding students—even where no citation was given or arrest was made.
- Clarify Confusion: If you are informed of a rule or policy from your college administration which is inconsistent with its other rules of conduct or is in any way ambiguous (g., how many students are allowed in a common room, the circumstances under which you are required to quarantine, etc.) do not assume that you can simply interpret the new rule in a manner most favorable to you. It might be preferable to point out the discrepancy in writing or ask for clarification in writing.
- Be Smart When Socializing:
- If you show up at a get-together and there seems to be more than the allowable number of people and/or they are not social distancing, don’t stay.
- Do not invite more than the allowable number of people to your dorm or other living space. If more than the allowable people show up, ask them kindly to leave or take the party to an allowable location (if there is one).
- Be Mask Ready:
- Keep disposable masks and hand sanitizer near the door to the common area of your dorm room or apartment. This demonstrates your commitment to complying with the applicable rules.
- Carry a mask with you at all times whether on or off-campus.
- If you are required to wear a mask on your campus, then wear the mask. If you have a verifiable medical condition that makes it impossible for you to wear a mask, you should provide your school with the necessary medical documentation before you are written up for not wearing a mask.
- Do Not Post: Do not take photos and avoid being in a photo of social gatherings on or off-campus. Likewise, do not post any social media of social gatherings on or off-campus.
- Obtain Legal Advice (if necessary):
- If you are accused of an infraction that has serious consequences, contact an attorney who handles these matters.
- Do not agree to a certain disciplinary process or sign a document in which you admit you engaged in an infraction until you have spoken with an attorney.
This article does not constitute legal advice. If you or your child has an educational related problem,
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