12 students moved to online from the South Hall incident, 8 more removed this week

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Photo: Nick McAdam

Nick McAdam, Editor-in-Chief

On Aug. 20, 12 students in South Hall attended a dorm party with no social distancing and no masks. As a result of Utica College’s Zero-Tolerance Policy, these 12 students were removed from campus and will continue their fall semester in a virtual setting.

As of Friday, Aug. 28, these students were given the chance to appeal to student conduct and administration, including notable members such as Dean of Students Timothy Ecklund. However, the results of this meeting went undisclosed to the public.

And then, as of Aug. 31, another eight students were removed from campus and will continue their semester online as a result of an off-campus get-together.

After contacting members of Campus Safety and administration, all refused to comment to respect the privacy of the individuals involved with the scenario. 

The distinction between true and false in this case is a gray area, according to some students. In fact, one day after the incident, an online petition in favor of bringing these students back on campus was started on Change.org by first-year student Jacob Notarino. 

In this petition, Notarino unpacks the students’ side of the story which includes the following points:

  • “Residential Advisors and Campus Security said that it was okay for them to not wear masks in dorms on a few separate occasions and to just ‘keep it low key’ and to not be too loud,” Notarino said.
  • “All of the students were also unaware of the ‘Zero-Tolerance Policy’ as they were supposed to learn more about this information at freshman orientation which was supposed to happen the day they were called to a meeting where they received their suspension,” Notarino added.

Aside from the South Hall incident, Notarino notes a second unrelated incident involving the use of marijuana by two students in an unspecified residence hall. According to Notarino, these students were members of the Utica College football team and were both kicked off after news broke of the incident.

Notarino finds both of these incidents “ridiculous” and tagged the initiative “#justiceforUC12.” This petition received a total of 1,400 signatures and has capped off at that amount recently.

Although the truthfulness of this narrative is still unclear, no comment was received on the concern of both Campus Safety and Resident Assistants telling residents to keep the party “low-key.”

Notarino also said students were unaware of the Zero-Tolerance Policy despite the many forms of communication that came from President Laura Casamento over the summer and weeks leading up to the first week of classes. In fact, a total of near 15 emails came from administration to students since April 1 regarding the updated COVID-19 policy.

Residents also had to complete online training from Director of Emergency Management Shad Crowe on updated policies and ways to stay safe during COVID-19. The mandatory training included a five-question quiz at the end of the presentation, which students had to pass with a score of 100 to continue with their semester.

Casamento immediately responded to the incident the day after in a memo noting the Zero-Tolerance Policy and stated the following:

“Let me be clear that we are taking this step now to ensure the safety of everyone on campus, including these students in question,” Casamento said. “This type of reckless and irresponsible behavior threatens to put our entire community and many others in harm’s way and undermines all of our efforts to come back together. We simply must demand better.” 

As mentioned before, the hearing and final results of this incident have remained the same. All of these students will continue their semester online. 

Going forward, the college’s method of communication has remained near the same as the summer with the exception of the Daily Health Screening that is both texted and emailed to all students every day.

As far as ways to keep students safe, UC still strongly encourages practicing common precautions such as washing hands, limiting contact and wearing a mask. The college also made rapid testing available for the first two weeks upon arrival and now is enforcing all students to participate in pooled testing at the Athletic Center.


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