Health and Science

Tulane University threatens expulsion for partygoers as schools struggle to keep students safe from coronavirus

Key Points
  • As Tulane University prepares to bring students back to campus in the fall amid the coronavirus pandemic, Dean of Students Erica Woodley warned students they will face consequences for partying.
  • Tulane's policy will be to ban all parties or large gatherings of more than 15 people, including the hosts, and those found in violation of the policy will face suspension or expulsion.
  • This announcement comes as colleges weigh the value and monetary gains of in-person classes against the public health risk posed by groups congregating.
Beads hang from tree limbs on the campus of Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana.
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Tulane University, which has long been ranked as one of the best party schools in the nation, is threatening expulsion for students attending big bashes after "truly shameful" partying drew negative attention to the campus over the Fourth of July.

"Do you really want to be the reason that Tulane and New Orleans have to shut down again?" Dean of Students Erica Woodley asked students in a July 7 email that scolded students who partied over the holiday weekend.

Tulane is banning all parties or gatherings of more than 15 people as the private New Orleans college tries to protect students and staff against spreading the coronavirus. Violators will risk suspension or expulsion, Woodley said.

"These events were disruptive to our neighbors and drew a lot of very negative attention to Tulane," Woodley said. "The behaviors of the student hosts and those who chose to attend these parties was disrespectful, selfish and dangerous and not in line with Tulane values. This type of behavior is indefensible and truly shameful."

Woodley reminded students of the risk associated with restarting in-person instruction at the university, where tuition for a freshman next year is $58,850. The private school, while boasting an 11% acceptance rate for the incoming freshman class, is the fifth top party school in the U.S., according to the Princeton Review.

She said the enforcement plan is still in progress, but there is already an online form for students to report "problematic" behavior. All gatherings must adhere to social distancing and attendees should wear masks, she said.

On Saturday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a mandatory mask requirement for anyone in public places and ordered bars to close after cases skyrocketed. 

"Cases in Louisiana continue to increase, including setting a record-high number of new cases reported in one day, today and yesterday," Edwards said. "We continue to go in the wrong direction in our work to control COVID-19 in our state," he said after the state confirmed more than 2,000 new Covid-19 infections each of those days and hospitalizations rose.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell also announced restrictions after the Fourth of July weekend, including prohibiting bar seating and placing a 25-person cap on indoor events.

Tulane's announcement comes as colleges try to balance holding in-person classes in the fall against the public health risks. Cornell University leadership, notably, cited school researchers who found the virus would be more likely to spread with classes solely online than a hybrid model, since students living off-campus would return to campus and not have to partake in mandated testing required for learning on campus if only taking online courses.

The university's reopening plan requires students starting class Aug. 19, five days earlier than originally planned, and ending the semester Nov. 24, with most exams happening online after Thanksgiving. Tulane plans to test all students upon arrival, provide frequent testing throughout the semester, and put fewer people than normal in housing and classrooms.

While Woodley said the pandemic will require students to think about and approach life differently, she is confident students are mature enough to follow the expectations set by the school and city of New Orleans. And if school leadership didn't think students were mature enough, she said, Tulane would not be reopening.

"There is no room for error here," Woodley said. "People's lives depend on your adherence to these rules. They aren't just nameless, faceless people – they are our people."