WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University suspended 36 students Wednesday night for violating the school’s policy on social distancing and masks.
According to university officials, the students from Circle Pines Cooperative, were holding a social gathering inside.
“No one was wearing face masks or social distancing as reported by the Purdue University Police Department,” said Katie Sermersheim, Associate Vice-Provost and Dean of Students. “It's very disappointing and discouraging that we haven't even officially launched the semester and we've had a social function that violates our 'Protect Purdue' policies and plans."
Students have five days to appeal the summary suspension.
This week, Purdue University announced students who violate social distancing guidelines and other commitments to the "Protect Purdue Pledge" could face disciplinary action including suspension and expulsion.
In a letter to students Wednesday, Sermersheim said the university will be "taking a hard line" on conduct for anyone engaging in events and activities that run counter to the Protect Purdue pledge.
"Plainly stated, hosting or attending gatherings and parties where social distancing is not possible and masks are not worn represent violations of the Protect Purdue Pledge; if you don’t abide by rules, there is no place for you here," Sermersheim said.
Violating the pledge is now listed in the same category as academic dishonesty, hazing, drug dealing and destruction of university property.
Prohibited Behavior (from Purdue University):
"Willfully failing or refusing to adhere to the requirements of the Protect Purdue Pledge, which has been adopted by the University’s Board of Trustees as an official University regulation and will be enforced as such; and
Organizing and/or hosting, either individually or with others, an event, party or other gathering (“Event”) or attending such an event, where the attendees are not required to, or willfully fail or refuse to, adhere to the requirements of the Protect Purdue Pledge, or of state or local public health laws, regulations or orders, including but not limited to the requirements of maintaining appropriate social distancing (6 feet based on current public health guidance) and wearing an appropriate face mask. This applies to events that are organized and/or held on or off campus."
Indiana University officials are also investigating a gathering on the Bloomington campus that appears to violate the university’s COVID-19 safety guidelines. A video surfaced on social media that appears to show dozens of students outside closer than six feet together and without masks.
Thursday afternoon, the university responded to the post on Twitter, saying:
"We are aware of this situation and actively investigating. Today we will identify participants and hand down suspensions. This gathering violated city and county regulations as well as our own guidelines and endangered the health of the IU community."
Later in the day, IU's president sent a warning out to students:
Over the past several days, we have seen several schools — including the University of Notre Dame, Michigan State University and the University of North Carolina — abruptly shut down in-person classes over outbreaks of COVID-19.
We are also aware of recent parties and large gatherings hosted by IU students that have violated county regulations and put our campus communities at risk. Thousands of IU community members, including many of your peers, have worked countless hours to ensure the safe return to on-campus learning.
Since the earliest days of the pandemic, you have told us that you want and value in-person, on-campus learning. Our faculty have told us they want to see you as well — and want you to have the educational experiences you deserve. That means you must follow the behaviors and actions that you agreed to by signing the Student Commitment Form, which all students must review and sign before returning to campus.
If too many of you fail to comply, our decision will be simple: We will reverse course as other universities have done and go back to all-virtual instruction, which we know you don’t want and which we have all worked so hard to avoid.
We know that we are embarking upon a fall semester like no other at IU. We recognize the sacrifices you, and all of us, have made and will continue to make.
How you choose to act matters — and it matters greatly. Right now, there are people on social media posting about how irresponsible students are going to force us all back online. They think it is inevitable. Prove them wrong.
Michael A. McRobbie