Roanoke College, Tech, Radford U. suspend 16 for virus violations

Students at the three schools hosted or were involved in off-campus gatherings where mask regulations and social distancing rules were ignored and positive COVID-19 infection tests are tied to the events.
Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.

At least 16 students at three colleges in the New River and Roanoke valleys have been “removed” the campuses after involvement in social functions that have led to new infections of COVID-19 Coronavirus.

Roanoke College announced Friday that six students were removed for violating the school’s conduct code at an off-campus party that has caused, to date, four positive tests of the virus.

Roanoke College began online classes Wednesday and students have been moving into campus residences with a plan to “transition” to in-person instruction by Sept. 7.

“We have serious concerns aobut student behavior about student behavior off campus and late at night,” Roanoke College president Micheal Maxey said in a message to students. “This year we cannot let our guard down — at any time.”

Virginia Tech suspended seven students Thursday after the university learned of off-campus gatherings of students who ignored mask regulations and social distancing rules.

Radford University suspended three students for the same reasons.

“Virginia Tech remains steadfast in its commitments to expect all members of our community to follow all public health guidelines issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote Dean of Students Byron Hughes in a message on Tech’s website Thursday.

He added:

Should the Dean of Students Office, the Virginia Tech Police Department, or the Blacksburg Police Department need to respond to concerns about noise violations or disruptive parties, a referral will be made to the Office of Student Conduct for their follow-up. Recent off-campus incidents that have occurred over the past week have resulted in seven students being placed on interim suspension.

Tech officials say they are prepared to place students on interim of immediate suspensions “if such action is necessary to preserve the safety of persons or property.”

Tech spokesman, responded to an email asking for more details with:

The Office of Student Conduct received a referral from local law enforcement related to large gatherings of students not practicing social distancing, not wearing masks and being disruptive to the community.

“As classes begin Monday, we must be unrelenting and uncompromising in our commitment to public health,” Hughes said in a web message sent to the “Hokie Nation.“ This includes you. We will succeed together — or we will fail together.”

Radford University at first refused to tie its three suspensions directly to COVID-19, but said the students “violated” the school’s “no tolerance” policy on public health issues.

On Aug. 24, a Faculty Senate member sent emails stating the University’s president Brian Hemphill had informed the Senate of the suspensions of the students for hosting large gatherings “two nights in a row” after warned not to do so after the first night, the Roanoke Times reported.

One student was suspended for the entire academic year and two others for the current semester, confirmed RU spokeswoman Caitlyn Scaggs in an email.

Campus students were sent an email from Hemphill and Vice President for Student Affairs Susan Trageser:

The University has a no tolerance approach for those who disregard our community’s public health and best interests. We plan to approach the beginning of the semester from an awareness, education, and outreach perspective. However, students with multiple offenses and/or blatant disregard for the health of our campus and our community will be held responsible. Sanctions could result in a number of actions, including suspension.

The World Health Organization this week warned that gatherings of college students could create “superspreaders” of the pandemic that has infected more than 22 million and killed 795,795 as of Friday morning, along with 5.7 million infections and 177,456 in the United States.

In Virginia, infections topped 110,000 Friday with more than 9,000 hospitalized and 2,427 deaths.

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