Students Suspended at Northeastern University for Violating Social Distancing Rules

Northeastern University announced last week that it has suspended eleven students for the fall semester who were found not complying with university social distancing rules.

According to a September 4 message from News @ Northeastern, the students were gath-ered in a room at the Westin Copley Place hotel, which is being used by the university for stu-dent housing this semester.  

“The students (and their parents) were notified Friday that they must vacate the Westin within 24 hours,” the message states. “Before departing, they were required to undergo COVID-19 testing at Northeastern, with the understanding that anyone who tests positive will be moved into wellness housing at the university until they have recovered, in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”

The students were members of the Program, which provides an “international experi-ence for first-year students,” the message states, adding that 818 students who are a part of the program are residing at the Westin Copley Place. The students are permitted to challenge the suspension at a hearing, the message states.

“Northeastern and its community of students, faculty, and staff take violations of health and safety protocols very seriously,” Madeleine Estabrook, senior vice chancellor for student affairs at Northeastern, said in the message. “Cooperation and compliance with public health guidelines is absolutely essential. Those people who do not follow the guidelines—including wearing masks, avoiding parties and other gatherings, practicing healthy distancing, washing your hands, and getting tested—are putting everyone else at risk.”

In a letter dated Aug. 28 addressed to Northeastern students, Estabrook warned that “students who host an unsafe (no masks and without healthy distancing) gathering, social or party, either on or off-campus can expect suspension; students who attend an unsafe gathering, social or party, either on or off-campus can expect suspension; and student organizations club sports, and teams that host an unsafe gathering, social or party can expect to have their university recognition withdrawn and involved students will subject to disciplinary action, including suspension and/or expulsion.”

The University has implemented a regular testing schedule for those who live and work on campus, the News @ Northeastern message states. Additionally, the handbook states that “As outlined in the Guide to Residence Hall Living, during COVID-19, per Northeastern University and Massachusetts regulations and guidelines, there will be no guests, visitors, or additional occupants allowed in residential assigned bed spaces during this time; this includes neighbors within your residential building,” the message said.

The students will not be refunded their tuition money, according to the message.

Martyn Roetter, Chair of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB), said that NABB has been in contact with Northeastern and other area colleges about their reopening plans.

“They explained a lot of things,” he said of the universities. He said that NABB was aware that approximately 800 students would be housed at the Westin Copley Place hotel, which he said he understood, as “hotels need all of the business they can get” right now because of lack of travelers due to the virus.

He said that a big concern for the Back Bay community was how Northeastern and other schools were going to “maintain discipline” while these students were living at the hotels.

He said that NABB was informed of the “Expectations for Return to Campus Attestation Form” that returning students are required to sign, outlining that they agree to follow the rules set forth by the campus related to COVID-19. He said that he knew there was “bound to be” a few students that did not obey the rules, but he was grateful for the “prompt response” from the University in handling the situation.

“I think we generally appreciate that the fact that Northeastern reacted to that very strongly and firmly,” he said of the students who were in violation of the rules. “Our concern is very much that we don’t want students to get infected, or our community,” Roetter said.

He said that with the Back Bay having a larger population of older folks, “we don’t want the community to be infected by the actions of a few students.”

He continued,” we just hope that it stops there and that the message is loud and clear, and that it does dissuade other students from behaving in ways that are dangerous not just to themselves, but to the broader community.”

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