FSU, other universities work to shut down large house parties

The first wave of college students returned to their dorms earlier this month for the first time since March. (Gerry Broome, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Police at Florida State University arrested seven students Sunday for hosting an open house party at which very few people were wearing face coverings or social distancing, FSU President John Thrasher announced in a letter to students Tuesday.

“I am deeply concerned with this sheer defiance to comply with the university’s guidelines and expectations set forth and communicated to you before the fall semester,” Thrasher wrote. “We will not tolerate any behavior that puts the health and safety of the campus or the Tallahassee community at risk. Consequences may include disciplinary probation, administrative action or suspension.”

Thrasher noted that the majority of students are acting with consideration and concern for others, but others exhibiting irresponsible and reckless behavior threatens the ability to keep the campus open for everyone.

“Whether on campus or off, we expect you to wear a face covering, adhere to social distancing, wash your hands frequently, avoid gathering in large groups, and stay home if you’re sick or have been exposed to COVID-19,” Thrasher said.

More than 700 coronavirus cases have been linked to K-12 schools and higher-education institutions over the two weeks students and employees began returning to campuses across the state, the Florida Department of Health reported Monday.

FSU officials reported Monday that 62 students and six employees had tested positive for the virus since Aug. 2. 

Some colleges around the county had to revert to remote learning within days of opening after outbreaks of COVID-19 were linked to parties and other non-sanctioned activities.

“Our goal is to remain open, and we have the opportunity to rise to the challenge. We are counting on you to take personal responsibility and make the right choices,” Thrasher said.

A couple of hundred miles south of Tallahassee, Florida Gulf Coast University suspended two fraternities for hosting large parties that appear to have violated the school’s coronavirus-related guidelines.

“After what seemed to be a good start to the fall semester under modified conditions, some of our students reportedly have chosen to ignore their responsibility to the university community and our neighbors,” Florida Gulf Coast President Mike Martin said in a prepared statement Monday.

Martin said the fraternities were suspended after university officials received reports of large parties on Friday night. Martin said the party organizers and participants put the university “at risk of having to close the campus and convert to fully online class delivery” if they are found responsible for violating guidelines involving social distancing, crowd sizes and face coverings.

“At this stage, we cannot determine whether closure will be needed for safety reasons,” Martin said. “Be assured, however, that there will be serious consequences for those who choose to exercise very poor, dangerous judgement.”

The university did not name the fraternities.

News Service of Florida contributed to this story.

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