A student at NYU was suspended indefinitely for not complying with the school’s COVID guidelines. He’s one of many students who have been suspended, with their tuition fee not refunded, since universities decided to re-open.
However, the student is an online student, all of his classes are online, and he wasn’t going to put any students “in danger” as he lives off-campus and has no plans to ever need to step on campus.
Last month, Andy (not his real name for privacy reasons in a Reason report) attended a weekend rooftop party. The party was compliant with the city’s Phase 4 COVID-19 guidelines, the report said. However, most of the attendees did not wear masks.
Andy claims he did not stand close to anyone else apart from his roommates. Additionally, they only stayed at the party for a short while.
Unfortunately, for Andy, someone filmed the party and posted the video on social media. The video, in which Andy is visible, was then reported to NYU via the school’s COVID-19 compliance system.
On August 23, NYU’s Director of Student Conduct, Craig Jolley, emailed Andy accusing him of “threatening the health and safety of the NYU community,” – even though he’s an off-campus and online-only student.
Andy was accused of violating different rules in the university’s code of conduct; the policy prohibiting threatening behavior that compromises health and safety, another one that requires students to follow the COVID-19 guidelines, and the one banning “disorderly, disruptive, or antagonizing behavior that interferes with the safety, security, health or welfare of the community.”
“As you are likely aware, the University is responding swiftly and seriously to behaviors that threaten the health and safety of the NYU Community,” Jolley’s email to Andy stated.
Last week, he was asked to plead his case on a Zoom call. By the end of the call, the university suspended Andy indefinitely.
“I am not a student who will be staying at or near NYU housing, nor will I be entering Campus Grounds or NYU buildings as I am currently enrolled in all online courses,” Andy argued in his appeal, which was rejected.
Andy’s argument that the university’s COVID-19 guidelines apply to those living on campus is valid, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) lawyer Adam Steinbaugh.
“COVID-19 is not a computer virus, so unless this event involved a number of NYU students, any interest the university has in wielding its disciplinary procedures to deter the spread of COVID-19 among NYU students is pretty attenuated,” Steinbaugh told Reason.
Steinbaugh thinks NYU is unfair, considering the rooftop party did not violate the city’s coronavirus guidelines.
“Universities appear eager to shift blame for ballooning COVID-19 infections to students,” the education rights attorney added.
Andy’s case is not isolated. Northeastern recently suspended 11 students for similar reasons and did not reimburse the $36,500 tuition fees. Purdue University suspended 36 students while Minnesota’s St. Olaf College suspended 17.
“A suspension for me is more than just a semester. This adversely impacts my entire life,” Andy said.