BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
winters@montclairlocal.news

Eleven Montclair State University students have been suspended from living on campus after attending large parties without masks over the weekend, university officials said.

After learning that students attended one off-campus party and a couple of gatherings in student rooms in violation of MSU’s rules and the governor’s executive order, university officials sent a text warning that any student who violates COVID safety protocols would be immediately suspended from housing, referred to the director of student conduct for disciplinary action and immediately deregistered from any courses or programs that have an on-campus component.  

Students began moving onto campus on Aug. 5 in a staggered format, with a certain number of students allowed to move into a residence hall in one-hour blocks to ensure proper social distancing. 

The university is expecting 3,200 students to live on campus for the fall semester, which begins tomorrow, Aug. 25, with 60 percent taking courses fully online, 32 percent doing both in-person and online courses, and 8 percent attending all in-person, said communications director Andrew Mees.

Students received the following text on Sunday: “Is the Next Message You Want to Get: Pack Your Bags and Go Home? ...Please understand, there will be no second chances.”

Students were required to produce a negative COVID-19 test within the last week before moving into the dorms. 

Students, employees, contractors and visitors are also required to complete a screening assessment before coming to campus. 

Students who live on campus are to complete the assessment daily before leaving their room. The University Health Center and Occupational Health Department reviews the results and, if needed, contacts individuals who are flagged.

Students were warned that no gatherings were allowed in residence halls, with only one visitor per room. When off-campus, students are expected to follow the state’s rules for indoor gatherings, and everyone on campus must wear face coverings and practice social distancing, Mees said. 

Karen L. Pennington, vice president for student development and campus life, said the majority of students are following the rules to stay safe and to enable the university to keep students on campus. 

“But this weekend, some students chose an opposite path,” Pennington wrote in a followup email to students. “They gathered in large groups to party without masks and social distancing. Those students apparently think the rules do not apply to them. 

“Those students apparently do not care that their actions could affect the thousands of students who are responsibly trying to pursue their education and the employees who are working hard to keep the university safe and open for them.”

She warned that students could be suspended for the remainder of the year and that no refunds for housing are given when a student is removed due to conduct. 

Any organization associated with the university that hosts, permits or enables students to gather in violation of the rules, either formally or informally, will be immediately suspended for the remainder of the year and possibly permanently, she said.