Florida Gulf Coast University students move back to campus, prepare for 'new normal'
Students move back to campus amid coronavirus pandemic.
A sorority at Florida Gulf Coast University has been suspended after being accused of hosting an event that went against the school's COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.
Delta Delta Delta was placed on immediate interim suspension Wednesday, reported President Mike Martin in an email to the campus community. The message went out Thursday afternoon with the subject line: "Decisions and consequences."
The sorority is accused of holding "an off-campus event in violation of the University’s COVID-19 guidelines," confirmed Susan Evans in an email. She is vice president and chief of staff for the Fort Myers university.
The organization is cut off from normal activities until the allegations can be reviewed during a student code of conduct hearing.
This is the third Greek life organization to go through this type of hearing since the fall semester started Aug. 17.
More: FGCU suspends two fraternities for reportedly ditching COVID rules during large, off-campus parties
Sigma Chi and Phi Delta Theta fraternities went through the review following reports they hosted large parties during the first week of the fall semester. Martin addressed this issue in his email, saying the two fraternities are now suspended for the remainder of the semester.
Martin said that while the "vast majority" of the school's 15,000 students have "risen to the challenge" of the times, he stressed that it is vital for everyone to follow the health directives, such as mask-wearing, maintaining physical distances and avoiding large gatherings of people.
"Be assured, we all find these unfortunate outcomes," Martin wrote. "However, we are living through an unprecedented, deadly global pandemic. To keep everyone living, everyone must do their part, which includes making sacrifices."
On Monday, the university started checking that students complete a daily health screening app before gaining access to buildings and on-campus activities.
The app has been a requirement of students since the start of the fall semester, but the checkpoints were added this week after the university saw low participation rates and a rise in positive cases.
Since the start of the fall semester, 83 positive cases have been reported — 24 so far this week.
In total, the university has reported 97 positive cases since April. Among them are:
- Off-campus students: 53
- West Lake Village (dorm) students: 6
- North Lake Village (dorm) students: 10
- South Lake Village (dorm) students: 19
- Employees: 9
More: Florida Gulf Coast University verifying that students on campus complete a daily health screening app
Already, the checkpoints have driven greater app use by students, Evans said.
On Sept. 15, FGCU's student app use was at 1,731 completions. By Monday, the first day of the checkpoints, 3,037 students had completed the screening questions through the app — an increase of 1,306 students.
In his email, Martin addressed concerns around campus that the Student Code of Conduct "is wrong and its application is unfair."
"Your opinions have been duly noted," he wrote. "But this virus is truly unfair and ignoring it is fundamentally wrong. And so, carefully consider the choices and decisions you make."
Last week, he announced that individual students would be subject to academic suspensions for breaking the COVID rules, stressing that a suspension from one university is a suspension from all 12 in the state.
More: FGCU president says students could end up suspended for breaking COVID rules
He wrote that "a small number" of individual students have already been placed on disciplinary probation for the remainder of the semester. According to the code of conduct, this means a student is no longer in "good standing" at the university and is restricted from participating in school-related activities.
Martin added that "additional cases are in the conduct process at this time."
The actions that led to individual students being disciplined will not be released to the public, explained Evans in an email. However, she said that as of Thursday four students are on probation related to COVID-19 violations.
Martin closed out his email asking for students to follow the safety guidelines.
"Please, please heed the directives for safe practice!" he wrote. "Please do what it takes to care for yourself, each other, and our campus and greater communities."
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