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The Clash Between Coronavirus and Campus Life

As summer turns to fall, colleges in Colorado and throughout the country are preparing for perhaps the most unique semesters in their respective histories. The previous academic year was cut short by coronavirus, ending in-person classroom teaching and denying seniors their long-awaited graduation ceremonies.

Students are returning to colleges nationwide amidst a continuing pandemic and several inevitable outbreaks on campus. During their break, more has been learned about COVID-19, specifically the deadly effects on the elderly and the low rate of younger people getting infected. One study shows that people under 20 are half as likely to catch the virus.

New School Year. New Rules.

Few would fault administrators for putting in protections and encouraging routines that have now become habits months later. Masks, social distancing, hand-washing, and other measures are commonplace. Yet, some college presidents and deans are imposing new rules with severe penalties and draconian punishments for those who break them.

Shortly after returning to campus, students are already being punished for violating safety rules related to the coronavirus. Administrators are putting pressure on fraternities and sororities to stop holding events that violate current bans on parties. These get-togethers are deemed as “unsanctioned” and “incredibly reckless.”

Hundreds of suspensions have already been issued for large gatherings, some without masks or social distancing. Many off-campus violators are banned from campus until the administrators’ rule on their cases. On-campus students could be kicked out of their dorms.

One college announced via email that “second chances” are not an option for violators who could lose their privileges for the remainder of the school year and “will be immediately de-registered from any courses or programs that have an on-campus component.” That ruling came with the promise of monitoring student behavior, both on and off-campus.

Whether it involves violating the law or rules imposed by college administrators, due process is paramount, even when it involved the “folly of youth.”. Many college students may not make the best decisions, but they still have rights that need protection.