MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia University announced Sunday it has placed 29 students under immediate interim suspension for their participation in parties Friday and Saturday night where COVID-19 guidelines were not followed.
“Immediate interim suspensions are used when we determine a student presents a safety risk to campus,” Dean of Students Corey Farris said in a statement released by the university. “We know that these parties act as super spreaders. Their flagrant disregard for the health and safety of their classmates, our campus and the entire Morgantown community will not be tolerated.”
WVU said some of the parties took place at fraternities not recognized by the university. One such party was attended by a member of the Theta Chi fraternity who previously tested positive for COVID-19 and was told to isolate which he did not. Other fraternity members living in the house were also told to quarantine or self-isolate because they had been exposed. WVU has charged 29 members of the fraternity with failure to comply with isolation or quarantine orders.
The students were notified by letter or Sunday. They are banned from campus and can no longer take in-person or online classes. WVU said additional sanctions are pending as investigations continue.
WVU is also investigating a second large party hosted by the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity, another group not recognized by WVU. Farris said non-recognition does not stop the university from taking action.
“While we are aware that some students have made the wrong decision to attend house parties off-campus, we also know the majority have occurred at unaffiliated fraternity houses,” Farris said. “This should serve as a message to anyone else who thinks the rules don’t apply to them. They do, and we will hold you accountable.”
Monongalia County is the only county in the state designated as ‘red’ on the state COVID-19 county alert map. Most of the 7-day rolling average of nearly 34 cases is tied to WVU but it’s also impacted the rest of Monongalia County. Public schools will not open with in-person instruction on Tuesday because of the high number of cases. The designation also means extra-curricular activities are not allowed and their are further limits on social gatherings.
Farris said Sunday he understands the community’s frustrations.
“The University is frustrated, too. We clearly communicated prior to returning to campus the health and safety protocols that must be followed in order to have on-campus learning. While we can better influence and monitor behavior on campus, it is our expectation that our students off-campus would follow the guidelines put in place to protect the city of Morgantown, which also includes wearing masks, not gathering in large crowds and following instructions to isolate or quarantine after exposure.
“No matter where they are, if a student cannot abide by the health protocols put in place for their safety and the safety of the community during a global pandemic, we do not want them here,” Farris said.
Farris added most students are doing the right thing but the few that aren’t will determine the next steps the university takes impacting all students.
WVU announced last Thursday that three students accused of repeatedly flouting covid-19 guidelines face suspension or expulsion.
“I have no problem with expulsion if people have violated the guidelines to the point that they should be sent home, packing,” WVU President Gordon Gee said during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”
Another 47 students are on probation for violations related to COVID-19 policies.
And, the university said, the Office of Student Conduct is processing charges for 20 more students who would face probation if found responsible.