Maryland universities begin suspensions of students over coronavirus-restriction violations

by MCR Correspondent

Maryland universities have begun temporary suspension of dozens of students for allegedly violating COVID-19 restrictions.

On Sunday August 6, 2020, university spokesperson, Katie Lawson said some Maryland universities that have reopened their campuses have issued interim suspensions to dozens of students believed to have violated coronavirus-related protocols and health guidelines.

The school’s disciplinary arm at the state’s flagship institution, university of Maryland, College Park, has issued interim suspensions to at least 19 students, according to Lawson in an email.

Spokesperson Jason Rhodes said in another email that Salisbury University on Maryland’s Eastern Shore has temporarily suspended 21 students for violating its COVID-19 policies.

The two universities, both affiliates of the University System of Maryland, represent just a handful in the state that have opted to offer in-person learning and room and board to students this fall as the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend normalcy.

Thousands of individuals in the United States continue to test positive for COVID-19 every day, with hundreds of new, active cases in Maryland alone as of Sunday.

The disciplinary measures highlight the challenges associated with reopening university facilities, which typically lend themselves to communal learning, socializing and living arrangements.

Universities wish to hold students accountable, so the University of Maryland and Salisbury University both referenced newly codified language in their codes of conduct related to expectations for students during the pandemic.

Interim suspensions at both institutions can be lifted once students meet with disciplinary bodies and provide explanations or context about the incidents in question, according to the codes of conduct at both University of Maryland and Salisbury University.

Report said, at least 10 of the 19 suspensions in College Park had already been lifted as of Friday.

However, Lawson did not confirm Sunday that those suspensions were lifted or whether the students would receive tuition or room and board reimbursement.

Representatives at the two institutions did not provide details into the specific incidents that led to the interim suspensions.

In a campus-wide email sent out on Friday, Andrea Goodwin, University of Maryland’s director of the Office of Student Conduct, attributed the suspensions “to a failure by some to comply with … expectations, in particular gathering in large groups, failing to wear masks and failing to maintain 6 feet of physical distance from others and, at times, to the reckless disregard for the directives of the medical professionals at the University Health Center that those infected with the virus isolate themselves so they do not infect others.”

In the letter, Goodwin referenced a set of four commitments mandatory for students to follow in their return to the campus, which include Quarantining when sick; wearing face coverings at all times; staying at least six feet apart from others; and practicing good hand hygiene.

Lawson said in an email that interim suspensions bar students from the campus as their cases are reviewed and can take place without prior notice.

“In reports of noncompliance for behaviors related to the spread of COVID-19, we have stated that we will not hesitate to take swift and severe disciplinary action, if necessary. Not following 4 Maryland healthy behaviors puts our community at risk.” Lawson said.

Dan Alpert, president of University of Maryland’s student government association, said students at the state’s flagship have been made well aware of the risks associated with poor decision-making since before returning to campus and should expect to face the same degree of enforcement as they would any other academic year.

“They need to be held responsible, just like any other time of the year,” he said.

Alpert said the administration has adequately communicated the severity of the situation to students and has done a good job at policing the campus.

“I’m hoping to see more enforcement of different policies and see students behave appropriately,” Alpert said.

Rhodes, from Salisbury, said the university is reviewing the circumstances that involved possible violations of the Student Code of Conduct associated with the newly implemented COVID-19 policies.

Salisbury’s student conduct code outlines similar policies and protocols as Maryland’s, requiring students to wear masks in public, quarantine when ill, limit the size of social gatherings and practice social distancing.

Maryland universities are not the only universities with these disciplinary actions, as several other schools have taken same measures against students found to have violated COVID-19-related restrictions.

Other universities with similar disciplinary actions across the US include Northeastern University in Boston, West Virginia University and Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

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