By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
In the wake of parties that left 47 University of Wyoming students quarantined after coming in contact with the coronavirus, the university is cracking down on student parties where attendees fail to observe COVID-19 precautions.
University spokesman Chad Baldwin told Cowboy State Daily that the UW is paying more attention to student parties where people do not take sufficient steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus and may take action against those hosting or attending such events.
“Our vice president of Student Affairs (Kimberly Chestnut) said this is not our normal course,” Baldwin said. “We are not normally monitoring off-campus gatherings But these are unusual times and circumstances. For us to have a chance to have a successful semester, we have to do this.”
The development followed news Tuesday that 47 students had been quarantined since Monday because they were exposed to people with confirmed cases of coronavirus at social gatherings over the weekend.
The university has launched inquiries into the parties, Baldwin said, and will pursue “student conduct proceedings” against students found to have hosted or attended the parties. Those students will be on an interim suspension and will not be able to attend classes until the cases are resolved.
If found guilty of hosting parties, students can be suspended or permanently dismissed, while those attending parties can be placed on probation or suspended.
“Basically, where students were at off-campus events where the rules regarding COVID were being flouted, we intend to pursue some action,” Baldwin said. “This is a recognition that college campuses are particularly problematic when it comes to the spread of COVID and we have an impact on our community. We have a responsibility to minimize that impact.”
The university also announced that any students who host or attend “COVID parties” with the intent of spreading the virus may be permanently dismissed from the university.
Baldwin said there is no evidence that such parties are being held at the UW, but officials are responding to rumors of such parties being held at other colleges in the country.
The university is not cracking down on all parties, Baldwin said, only those where safety precautions are being ignored.
“We understand this is asking for a departure in behavior from college students,” he said. “Basically, if you can distance and wear a mask and you’re not passing around drinks or doing buffet-style food service, you’re probably OK.”
“It’s where there’s a very clear disregard for those measures where we’re going to crack down.”
The university has one of the lowest coronavirus infection rates among colleges nationally, Baldwin said, with 28 active cases, and the university would like to keep those numbers low.
“We have to stay on top of this stuff,” he said.