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Syracuse University says student gathering may have already derailed plans for in-person learning

100 students gathered on school's quad, many without masks
Syracuse University says student gathering may have already derailed plans for in-person learning
Posted at 1:55 PM, Aug 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-20 13:57:23-04

In an open letter published Thursday, Syracuse University said that a large gathering of underclassmen on Wednesday night may have already derailed the school's plans to keep the campus open through the fall semester before classes have even begun.

According to The Daily Orange, the school's student newspaper, more than 100 students, many of them not wearing masks, gathered on the school's quad on Wednesday night.

It's unclear what event the students were attending, or why the students were crowded together.

In-person classes at the school are scheduled to begin on Monday.

Students at Syracuse have been asked to sign a "Stay Safe Pledge" ahead of the fall semester. In the pledge, students promised to maintain a social distance of six feet, limit gatherings to no more than 25 people and wear a face covering on campus. All students — even those who choose not to sign the pledge — could be referred to the school's Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities for not complying.

In its open letter, entitled "Last Night's Selfish and Reckless Behavior," Vice Chancellor J. Michael Haynie called the gathering "unsettling."

"... the students who gathered on the Quad last night may have done damage enough to shut down campus, including residence halls and in-person learning, before the academic semester even begins," Haynie wrote.

Haynie closed his letter by challenging students to practice better social distancing as the semester went on.

"I want you to understand right now and very clearly that we have one shot to make this happen," Haynie wrote. "The world is watching, and they expect you to fail. Prove them wrong. Be better. Be adults. Think of someone other than yourself. And also, do not test the resolve of this university to take swift action to prioritize the health and well-being of our campus and Central New York community."

Several other large universities have already experienced outbreaks of COVID-19 just days after welcoming students back to campus. Notre Dame shifted to remote learning after 150 students tested positive for COVID-19 after a week on campus. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill made a similar shift after 130 students tested positive for the virus after a week of classes.