Have a Party, Risk Expulsion, Dean of Students of Major University Says

Last week after it was reported that Tulane University students were partying over the Fourth of July weekend, Tulane’s Dean of Students Erica Woodley issued a stern warning to all students-shape up or ship out.

students drinking at outdoor college party
Student will have to be responsible or risk expulsion. (Twenty20 @jasontrefry)

The letter addressed to students says that despite the school’s pleas to the contrary, students living in New Orleans elected to have large social gatherings without social distancing or face masks. And they chose to share photos of those gatherings on social media.

Dean Woodley went on to tell students that these parties were disruptive and “drew a lot of very negative attention to Tulane. The behaviors of the student hosts and those who chose to attend these parties was disrespectful, selfish and dangerous and not in line with Tulane values. This type of behavior is indefensible and truly shameful.”

Dean Woodley added that,

The calculation is simple – If you want to have a residential experience at Tulane in the fall, you have to behave differently. This means, no large gatherings (+15 people), and at all times wearing masks in public spaces, practicing social distancing and washing your hands.  We are finishing our complete enforcement plan for the fall, but it is clear that this message had to be delivered immediately. DO NOT HOST PARTIES OR GATHERINGS WITH MORE THAN 15 PEOPLE, INCLUDING THE HOST. IF YOU DO, YOU WILL FACE SUSPENSION OR EXPULSION FROM THE UNIVERSITY...There is no room for error here. People’s lives depend on your adherence to these rules.

She then ended her letter by asking students to turn each other in if they see “problematic behavior.” There will be an online reporting system that is in real-time and monitored 24 hours day for students to report violations of Covid rules. The Dean asks students, “Do you really want to be the reason that Tulane and New Orleans have to shut down again?”

In a similar incident at UC Berkeley, a school with a student body of roughly 47,000, officials connected 47 new COVID-19 cases last week, mostly among undergraduate students, to parties in the university’s Greek life system, according to a July 8 message to the campus from Anna Harte, medical director of health services, and Guy Nicolette, assistant vice chancellor.

The July 8 message to students said ““At the rate we are seeing increases in cases, it’s becoming harder to imagine bringing our campus community back in the way we are envisioning.”

Sarah Van Orman, Vice Provost for Student Affairs at USC acknowledged that it is impossible for the university to monitor off-campus behavior or control what occurs in private residences. But she said the university will send out “strong messaging” about safe behavior to students who live in areas patrolled by campus police and will also be watchful of gatherings related to student organizations. The community needs to “comply because it’s the right thing to do…” she added.

Many other schools including Harvard and Princeton are establishing social contracts for undergraduate students that state that “while on campus,” students will participate in mandatory monitoring and testing and agree not to host in-person gatherings. Both schools say that violations of the social contract might result in students being removed from campus.

It remains to be seen whether students will comply with Covid rules or with social contracts that require them to police each other’s behavior. “We are all in this together,” that oft-repeated phrase now means that students must report each other’s violations for the good of the whole. The question remains, Will they do it?

About Helene Wingens

Helene Wingens has always been passionate about painting pictures with words. She graduated from Brandeis University with a degree in psychology and three years later from Boston University School of Law with a Juris Doctor. In a year long clerkship for an appellate judge Helene honed her writing skills by drafting weekly appellate memoranda. She practiced law until she practically perfected it and after taking a brief twenty year hiatus to raise her three children she began writing a personal blog Her essays have been published in: Scary Mommy, Kveller, The Forward, and Grown and Flown where she is Managing Editor. You can visit Helene's website here

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