Wednesday, November 30, 2022

W&M says 16 students violated coronavirus safety rules, will face consequences – but didn’t specify what the punishment will be

(WYDaily file/Courtesy of W&M News)
(WYDaily file/Courtesy of W&M News)

No masks. Not social distancing. Underage drinking.

Serious accusations.

Ginger Ambler, William & Mary’s vice president of Student Affairs announced in a letter to the college community some students had violated the Healthy Together agreement over the weekend.

There will be consequences, university officials said, but what exactly will be the punishment imposed on the students remains unclear. Officials would only cite W&M’s online “list of possible consequences.”

Healthy Together: A Community Commitment was an initiative between the city of Williamsburg and the university to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Ambler said the students had violated the college’s Student Code of Conduct, the Residence Life Housing Contract and Virginia law, too.

“They gathered in a group exceeding our size guidelines, without the space to physically distance, were not wearing masks and possessed alcohol while underage,” she wrote. “Their actions have resulted in sanctions, which in some instances include removal from campus housing and/or separation from the campus community.”

On Aug. 21, William & Mary’s Dean of Students Marjorie Thomas sent a letter to college community announcing a COVID Zero Tolerance Policy effective immediately.

The policy banned gatherings 10 people or more and announced the university would have joint party patrols with the Williamsburg Police Department to make sure people are wearing masks and social distancing.

“If you do not wear a mask and physical distance or if you host or attend large gatherings that violate the Healthy Together Commitment, you will NOT be allowed to be present on campus this semester, either in a residence hall or elsewhere, including classrooms and the library,” she wrote. “You will be required to leave and remain off campus and to complete the rest of the semester remotely – and potentially face suspension.”

RELATED STORY: W&M student association calls dean’s COVID letter ‘disappointing,’ with ‘accusatory and threatening language’

W&M spokeswoman Erin Zagursky wrote in an email on Monday 16 students had violated the agreements but she could not say what the students’ “specific sanctions” or consequences were, citing federal guidelines and the university’s policies regarding student records.

She reiterated Ambler’s statement, noting the students’ consequences could range from losing housing on campus to be temporarily suspended or permanently dismissed from campus.

“A list of possible consequences for violating W&M’s community commitment may be found online,” she wrote linking to the Community Commitment Violations webpage which listed the violations. “The students do have a right to appeal.”

WYDaily asked Zagurksy if the 10-person rule applies to classes and how many students are allowed to gather in classrooms.

Zagurksy did not answer the question, but she did note the university has “configured classrooms” and other spaces to space students and staff six feet apart from one another.

She added face coverings are required in public or shared spaces like classrooms and if physical distancing cannot happen such as lab classes, “face shields of Plexiglass barrier may be required as added protection for both students and faculty.”

The university’s “increased cleaning protocol” focused on the “frequent cleaning” of public spaces and individual responsibility for personal space, she said.

“On- and off-campus gatherings continue to be limited to no more than 10 people with required masks and physical distancing,” Zagursky wrote, linking to a Sept. 11 announcement after Gov. Ralph Northam lifted restrictions for Hampton Roads and the Peninsula. “Programs or events sponsored by the university or student groups will continue to be limited to 50 people, with required masks and physical distancing.”

As of Monday, fewer than 10 students and fewer than 10 employees have tested positive for the virus while 24 students and fewer than 10 employees have tested positive before arriving on campus, according to the W&M COVID-19 dashboard.

The on-campus positives test statistics are defined as “any student or employee having a local address within a 90-mile drive of the campus is considered an on-campus community member.”

As of Monday, there are 134,571 cases, 10,293 hospitalizations and 2,743 deaths from the coronavirus in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Health’s website.

In the Historic Triangle:

The latest coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the Historic Triangle from the Virginia Department of Health. (WYDaily/ Julia Marsigliano)
The latest coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the Historic Triangle from the Virginia Department of Health. (WYDaily/ Julia Marsigliano)

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Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsiglianohttp://wydaily.com
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to julia@localvoicemedia.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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