BOSTON — Kicked out of school, before school even begins. Northeastern notified 11 students and their parents Friday that they have 24 hours to vacate their temporary dorms, which were at the Westin Hotel next to the campus.
Northeastern dismissed the 11 freshmen for the semester after staff members caught them in a room at the Westin Wednesday.
“We were getting emails about this no parties, no gatherings no guest in our rooms,” said Natasha Tarr, a freshman from Russia. “Especially now because people are still getting tested from their arrivals so it’s really serious.”
Any payments the students have made are not refundable, but students can appeal.
“I think it’s fair because there was a strict set of guidelines we have to follow and it clearly says if we are at a party or have more than 10 people we will get suspended or dismissed,” said sophomore Sofia Hassan.
“I didn’t know that was a thing, I feel like they should’ve made it a little bit more clear. It’s put it in some weird contract. I’m not gonna read that,” another anonymous student said.
Before departing, they were required to undergo COVID-19 testing at Northeastern, with the understanding that anyone who tests positive will be moved into wellness housing at the university until they have recovered, in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“The students have been informed that they are no longer part of the Northeastern community for the fall semester,” the statement said. “They have the right to contest their dismissal at an expedited hearing.”
The 11 students were enrolled in the N.U.in program, a study-abroad experience for first-year students that has been modified in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and now includes Boston as one of the locations. There are 818 N.U.in students staying in two-person rooms at the Westin, less than one mile from the Boston campus.
“Northeastern and its community of students, faculty, and staff take violations of health and safety protocols very seriously,” said Madeleine Estabrook, senior vice chancellor for student affairs at Northeastern. “Cooperation and compliance with public health guidelines is absolutely essential. 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.
“Testing negative for COVID-19 is not enough,” Estabrook said. “We must practice all of the public health guidelines in order to keep ourselves and the community healthy. Together, we can keep each other safe, but it will require everyone’s consistent cooperation.”
The university said its efforts to promote the safety of students, faculty, staff, and community also include regular testing for everyone who lives and works on campus.
On multiple occasions for the past week, students in the N.U.in program have been formally notified that they must practice physical distancing, avoid crowds, and wear masks in the presence of other people, the university said. The students were required to acknowledge that they had reviewed the program handbook, which included details of the COVID-19 requirements that are meant to keep everyone safe.
“As outlined in the Guide to Residence Hall Living, during COVID-19, per Northeastern University and Massachusetts regulations and guidelines, there will be no guests, visitors, or additional occupants allowed in residential assigned bed spaces during this time; this includes neighbors within your residential building,” reads a passage from page 14 of the N.U.in handbook. All students who reside in university housing receive the Guide to Residence Hall Living at the start of the semester.
The policies have been laid out for N.U.in students at mandatory floor meetings as students have been moving into the Westin over the past week, the statement said. The students were told that an N.U.in Boston Student Union Room was being made available at the Westin starting on Friday, with enough room to accommodate 16 socially-distanced people wearing masks.
The university said public health guidelines have been repeated in a variety of forms throughout the Northeastern community as the school has reopened its Boston campus for the fall semester.
On Aug. 28, Estabrook sent a letter to all students that stressed the responsibility of heeding to COVID-19 protocols.
“Students who host an unsafe (no masks and without healthy distancing) gathering, social or party, either on or off-campus can expect suspension,” Estabrook wrote. “Students who attend an unsafe gathering, social or party, either on or off-campus, can expect suspension.”
The gathering of 11 students was discovered Wednesday night by two N.U.in staff members, who were on-call and making rounds of the building.
The university said staff members took down the information of the students, explained that they would be receiving follow-up emails from Northeastern, and answered the students’ questions before sending them back to their rooms.
Payments by the students will not be refundable, per guidelines of the N.U.in program, the university said.
This is not new at schools across the country and locally. B.U. has the same consequences. B.C. warns students could face anything from suspension to loss of housing.
“Most of them are taking it seriously,” said Tarr. “I feel like freshmen are coming to College and want to socialize and meet people so honestly I’m not that surprised.”
Schools say they remain strict so they don’t have to do what we’ve seen at other schools where they bring students back to campus and then send everyone back home because of an outbreak.
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