In a letter sent to students, faculty and other staff at UNR Thursday, university President Marc Johnson said “troubling reports” of off-campus behavior — including a number of parties and gatherings with frequently un-masked attendees and little social distancing — could warrant the investigation and sanction of students who break the university’s Student Code of Conduct.
Citing a provision of the code that bars conduct in violation of state and local laws and gives the university latitude to investigate off-campus conduct that “adversely and directly affects the health, safety, or property of the University community,” any student found in violation would be subject to the “full range of sanctions.”
That includes possible suspension, expulsion or a loss of recognition by an affiliated organization, the letter said.
“These parties put not only the University Community at risk — they jeopardize the entire public health effort that Washoe County has been following since the outbreak of COVID-19 in mid-March,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s letter comes just days before the Labor Day holiday weekend, and after reports from Reno police and the Washoe County Health Department that parties near the university in the last month have, in part, driven new infections in the area.
“Let me be clear: Students should not engage in off-campus behavior that violates the Code and adversely and directly affects our community. If they do, they face sanction from the University,” Johnson said.
Across the country, colleges and universities have grappled with the increasingly rapid spread of the coronavirus among students returning to in-person or hybrid classroom settings. A handful of universities have already been forced to reverse their in-person instructional offerings, while some state governments and health officials are explicitly warning students not to party while the pandemic continues.
In Nevada, officials at both the Nevada System of Higher Education and the state’s colleges and universities have stressed the “flexibility” of existing reopening plans, pointing to contingencies that would theoretically allow institutions to switch between varying degrees of in-person, online or hybrid instruction.
But at least some students and faculty remain uneasy or frustrated with existing guidelines, saying they often don’t go far enough or provide the protection necessary to stop the spread of the virus in Nevada through university campuses.
In closing his letter, Johnson noted the “vast majority” of the campus community was following guidelines and precautions, adding that “so many of you understand that taking individual responsibility for what you do helps keep other individuals safe.”