Florida State University

Students at Florida State University have been told they risk suspension if they’re found to have hosted or attended large gatherings, on or off campus.

Just days after Gov. Ron DeSantis chastised Florida’s 12 state universities for restricting students from socializing during the coronavirus, police near FSU in Tallahassee shut down a party with more than 1,000 people at an off campus apartment complex. Police said at least 700 cars were parked in the area, blocking travel lanes. It was one of a dozen large social events broken up over the weekend. Meanwhile, DeSantis has said he’s willing to consider a college students’ “bill of rights” that would preclude state universities from taking actions against students who are enjoying themselves.

Trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Florida State University announced last week that it would suspend students who attend or host large gatherings on or off campus. Also, it said it would suspend students who test positive for COVID-19 but don’t isolate themselves.

“I personally think it’s incredibly draconian that a student would get potentially expelled for going to a party,” DeSantis said. “That’s what college kids do.”

After shutting down campuses in March as the pandemic hit the state, universities spent months working on plans to reopen for the fall semester and to try to prevent the spread of the virus.

But schools such as Florida State have drawn attention as pictures of crowds of students at places such as pools and a football game have become public.

In what was described as an “urgent call to action,” FSU President John Thrasher last week warned that “students who endanger the community with actions such as hosting or attending a large party or gathering will be subject to suspension.”

Additionally, Thrasher’s message warned students they could face suspension if they test positive for COVID-19 and don’t isolate.

“Socializing outside of your residence, working out at the Leach Center (gym) or engaging in activities such as going to parties may result in your suspension from Florida State University for a minimum of one academic semester,” the message said.

DeSantis’ remarks came at a news conference about health issues in Tallahassee. The event included DeSantis meeting with three scientists: Stanford University professors Michael Levitt and Jayanta Bhattacharya, and Harvard University professor Martin Kulldorff.

Kulldorff said universities should operate almost normally, except that older professors should teach classes online and teaching assistants could appear in person to help students. He also maintained that as a matter of policy, college students shouldn’t be tested for COVID-19 because they are young and won’t succumb to the virus.

“Students should be on campus. They should go. If they get sick, they should maybe stay in the dorm room until they are well if they have a cough,” he said. “Colleges should operate more or less normally.”

Responding to a question from DeSantis, Bhattacharya said he didn’t think a policy like Florida State’s would be effective.

“These kinds of policies … are unnatural and are going to result in psychological harm. And I think the colleges and the universities have an obligation to respect that, especially given the fact that the kids themselves face so low a risk from COVID,” said Bhattacharya. “They face a higher risk, I think, from the psychological harm that comes from the lockdown policies that many colleges have imposed.”

As of a last week the University of Florida COVID-19 dashboard showed the school has had 702 students and 52 staff members test positive. FSU reported on its COVID-19 dashboard that it has had 1,835 positive students and 270 positive employees.

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