Conduct cases for UMass students reach nearly 200

  • University of Massachusetts Amherst campus GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 13, 2020

AMHERST — Nearly 200 University of Massachusetts students are going through the campus conduct process this semester as the number of COVID-19 positive cases reported by the university continues to rise.

UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski wrote in an email Tuesday that cases have been opened for 195 students, though it is unknown how many of these are related to violations of safety protocols designed to curb the spread the novel coronavirus.

“However, it is accurate to say that a notable number of the cases are connected to COVID public health concerns referred to the university,” Blaguszewski wrote.

For those cases already adjudicated, the Dean of Students Office has not released details of specific sanctions under the student code of conduct, which can include a reprimand, suspension or expulsion.

But Blaguszewski added, “if students are involved in egregious or repeated acts in violation of the UMass Amherst Community Agreement, such matters are forwarded to the Dean of Students for review and potential sanction under the code of student conduct.”

Town Manager Paul Bockelman informed the Town Council Monday about the number of students brought through the disciplinary process as the town sees an uptick in COVID-19 cases, which is almost entirely attributed to the increase in cases at UMass.

Bockelman said there are no plans to change the town’s approach to confronting the illness, noting that police have been responding to numerous noise complaints each weekend and have been issuing a “fair number” of $300 tickets for violations of the noise and nuisance house bylaws.

During the council meeting, Bockelman also provided updates on complaints received through the COVID-19 hotline and email account, with 150 calls made and 88 emails sent since they were launched in late August. There also have also been 1,170 interactions made by COVID-19 ambassadors, mostly UMass students who are hired to speak to people not complying with rules of the face-covering zone in downtown Amherst, and hand out masks, when necessary.

Though some residents have called for the town to step up enforcement, Bockelman said downtown Amherst has seen a high level of compliance for mask wearing and social distancing. Generally, he said, it’s been parties where, even when small in size, people are not wearing face coverings or social distancing. The superspreader event off campus, which took place at an unspecified location on Sept. 18, in fact, had fewer than 10 guests.

Like the town, Blaguszewski said the university is not adjusting how it is dealing with COVID-19.

“University officials emphasize that experience shows the most effective public health practices to deter the spread of COVID-19 are education and frequent testing,” Blaguszewski said. “Emphasizing a confrontational approach can be counterproductive and discourage participation in contact tracing efforts.”