Home Campus OPINION: Partying, petitions and punishments during COVID-19

OPINION: Partying, petitions and punishments during COVID-19

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Court Street in Athens, Ohio at night. File photo by Connor Perrett.

Maddie Kramer, a senior studying political science, argues that although Ohio University threatens students with punishments for not following the university’s COVID rules, they will not take any impactful action.

Please note that these views and opinions do not reflect those of The New Political.

Despite Ohio University’s attempts to keep students home during online learning, many have chosen to return, and in typical college student fashion — bombarding the bars and throwing house parties. 

Ohio U’s phased return to Athens severely limited the number of students permitted to be on campus. Permitted students consist of mostly nursing, engineering and art majors. While it originally seemed many students were actually going to stay in their hometowns, uptown Athens during the annual university “Welcome Weekend” told a different story.

Despite Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s order to halt alcohol sales at 10 p.m., bars uptown were busy with college students starting Thursday night. Ben Peters from the Athens NEWS tweeted pictures of Court Street and Mill Street showing the Welcome Weekend’s festivities on Friday, calling it “relatively tame.” However, in the era of coronavirus, bars with lines out the door is not a good look. 

Ohio State University suspended over 200 students before the semester even started for similar behavior. A new petition circulating is asking Ohio U to do the same.

The Change.org petition is calling on the university to “adopt a strict means of handling cases of students who ignore public health guidelines.” Both the city of Athens and the state of Ohio have enacted an ordinance requiring face masks while in public, and Ohio U is requiring students to sign a pledge saying they will “observe the heightened health and safety precautions” of the upcoming semester.

Like Ohio State University, Ohio U might have to make an example of some students to show the university means business. Ohio U Spokesperson Carly Leatherwood warned that if students are penalized for breaking the OHIO Pledge, they may have to go through the formal process with the university’s Code of Conduct office. 

It is still unclear what discipline the students would receive after this process. 

Ohio U received national attention in the fall of 2019 for placing sweeping punishments on most Greek Life organizations following hazing reports. These organizations then had to follow a strict process to become reinstated under the university’s watchful eye. While extreme, this showed the university was taking the situation seriously.

Greek life became the center of attention and organizations cleaned up their act. This might be a required step for the university to punish some students and prove a point: Take the public health precautions or face penalties. 

Due to many of these events happening at off-campus residences, however, the university might be fighting an uphill battle to penalize gathering students. Maybe the harshest penalty of it all is the potential for an online spring semester. 

It seems that the university is trying its hardest to keep students and the city of Athens safe. But suspending or disciplining students for not obeying public health orders may not be in the realm of possibility. 

While it seems like a solution on the surface, it raises concerns that this step may set a precedent of Ohio U taking greater steps to squash its party school reputation. Unfortunately, it seems it may take a greater effort from the state to effectively stop people from going to bars and stay home.

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