Northeastern University dismissed 11 first-year students for violating social distancing rules, but held on to their tuition payments.
The Boston university dismissed the students after two staff members from their program caught them gathering at the Westin Hotel, which is being used as university housing during the pandemic, the school said on Friday. The Boston Globe reported the university will not return a $36,500 fee the students each pre-paid to take part in the semester-long N.U.in Program, an international study experience that now has a location in Boston due to COVID-19. However, the students will still be permitted to officially enroll as freshmen this January, the university told TIME.
“The students have been informed that they are no longer part of the Northeastern community for the fall semester. They have the right to contest their dismissal at an expedited hearing,” the university said in a statement.
The students were told Friday to vacate the hotel within 24 hours and to receive COVID-19 tests at the university, the school said. The university planned to move any of the students who tested positive into wellness housing to limit the virus’ spread.
“Cooperation and compliance with public health guidelines is absolutely essential,” said Madeleine Estabrook, senior vice chancellor for student affairs, said in a statement. “Those people who do not follow the guidelines—including wearing masks, avoiding parties and other gatherings, practicing healthy distancing, washing your hands and getting tested—are putting everyone else at risk.”
The university noted that students in the N.U.in program have repeatedly been warned to practice social distancing, stay out of crowds and wear masks around other people. Students were also asked to acknowledge reviewing the program’s handbook, which included a ban on “guests, visitors or additional occupants” in students’ rooms to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Estabrook addressed the rules in an Aug. 28 letter to students.
“Students who host an unsafe (no masks and without healthy distancing) gathering, social or party, either on or off-campus can expect suspension,” she wrote. “Students who attend an unsafe gathering, social or party, either on or off-campus, can expect suspension.”
In recent weeks, professors and public health experts have raised concerns about whether colleges and universities can be opened safely for in-person classes given the level of community spread in the United States. Across the country, thousands of college students at schools like the University of Alabama have tested positive for the virus. While some reports have faulted students for partying and otherwise failing to social distance, others have argued that universities are at fault for choosing to reopen and then blaming outbreaks on young students.