By Lindsay Price
Students received a global email on Monday, Aug. 31 regarding several off-campus events with large groups of people involved. These gatherings occurred less than a week after the new semester kicked off, and Campus Safety is working with local law enforcement to handle the incidents. Despite not occurring on The University of Tampa’s grounds, students will still be held responsible for violating the school’s policies, as off-campus behavior can impact the UT community’s health.
There were allegations that fraternities were hosting these parties, but other groups have been reported as well. Assistant director of fraternity and sorority life, Ryne Burds expressed his disappointment that any group would host parties during a pandemic.
The effects of COVID-19 have changed how fraternities and sororities can function, but he believes that virtual recruitment and events can be a success with a bit of creativity. Virtual recruitment has already taken place at other schools, which can provide a blueprint for fraternities and sororities to navigate the pandemic restrictions.
“We must all work together to ensure the health and safety of all. Our fraternities and sororities have many resources that my office can provide, or their national organizations can provide to be a safe social alternative than hosting parties and large gatherings,” said Burds. “While Zoom fatigue is real, providing a way to socialize on a virtual platform is the safest alternative.”
UT has called on students to report violations of the social distancing guidelines through a public form. The format prompts the community to provide details of incidents, including the time of occurence, the location, and the people involved.
“We are not asking groups to completely stop gathering in person,” said Burds. “We are asking them that if they do, they do so by following all CDC and Spartan Shield guidelines and of course, not gathering in large groups. All our fraternities and sororities are required to submit events in EngageUT prior to them hosting anything. This includes in person and virtual events, and on or off campus events.”
Some students are concerned about the aggravated risk of infection that large gatherings create, and are happy to report these incidents. UT learned of the recent off-campus gatherings through student reports, so the form has already worked to bring incidents to the school’s attention.
The Office of Student Conduct recognized that not all students were adhering to the guidelines or taking them seriously. They felt it necessary to inform students of the strict disciplinary consequences that would be enforced for social distancing violations. Students will be subject to disciplinary action and can receive an indefinite suspension for hosting or attending parties.
“We recognize that the majority of students support the Spartan Shield Health and Safety plan, and are acting in proactive ways to protect themselves and others. Our ability to remain safe and in-person as a UT community depends on each one of us, and this requires zero tolerance for creating environments that endanger the health of our community,” said the official statement from Stephanie Russell Krebs, dean of students.
Violations of UT policy can be submitted by any member of the UT community at www.ut.edu/incidentreport.