coronavirus

Gathering on Quad could shut down campus, SU official says

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Students are still moving in to Syracuse ahead of the start of classes Aug. 24.

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A group of freshmen who gathered Wednesday night on Syracuse University’s Quad could have caused enough damage to shut down campus and end residential learning, Vice Chancellor Mike Haynie said in a statement Thursday.

Several videos and images that have circulated on social media show at least 100 students — some without masks — gathering on the university’s Quad and not social distancing. The videos came out only four days before the official start of classes on Monday. 

“Last night, a large group of first-year students selfishly jeopardized the very thing that so many of you claim to want from Syracuse University—that is, a chance at a residential college experience,” Haynie said. 

The gathering began with a small group of students congregating in the Quad around 9:45 p.m. and had “grown considerable” by 10p.m., Department of Public Safety Chief Bobby Maldonado said in a statement Thursday. DPS dispatched officers to the Quad at 10:19 p.m., and the area had been cleared by 10:30 p.m. DPS is headquartered at Sims Hall, a short walk from the Quad.

“I am disappointed that a group of this size was able to congregate so quickly,” Maldonado said. “I assure you: we have already taken the appropriate steps to ensure this will not happen again.”

The university has requested that students sign and adhere to its Stay Safe Pledge, which bans large gatherings of more than 25 people, mandates that all students practice social distancing and requires anyone on campus to wear a mask at all times. 

Students who violate the pledge, regardless of whether they’ve signed it, could be referred to SU’s Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities for violations of the Code of Student Conduct. Penalties range from disciplinary probation to suspension and expulsion.

“Make no mistake, there was not a single student who gathered on the Quad last night who did not know and understand that it was wrong to do so,” Haynie said. “Instead, those students knowingly ignored New York State public health law and the provisions of the Syracuse University Stay Safe Pledge.”

SU is conducting a full investigation of last night’s incident, Haynie said. The Department of Public Safety is reviewing security camera footage from the Quad, and any students who are identified will immediately undergo the student conduct process, he said. 

“Do not test the resolve of this university to take swift action to prioritize the health and well-being of our campus and central New York community,” Haynie said.

Over the past week, several universities, including the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and Notre Dame University, have transitioned to online learning only weeks into the semester after several coronavirus outbreaks occurred on campus. 

“I want you to understand right now and very clearly that we have one shot to make this happen,” Haynie said. “The world is watching, and they expect you to fail. Prove them wrong. Be better. Be adults. Think of someone other than yourself.”

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