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7 Virginia Tech students suspended after off-campus gatherings

7 Virginia Tech students suspended after off-campus gatherings

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An administrator said a crowded academic classroom created “anxiety” among students.

Seven Virginia Tech students were suspended Thursday after local law enforcement alerted the university to reports of large groups of students gathered off-campus.

“Virginia Tech remains steadfast in its commitment to expect all members of our community to follow all public health guidelines issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dean of Students Byron Hughes said in a message posted on Tech’s website Thursday afternoon.

He noted that public health guidelines — which include a recent Blacksburg ordinance limiting gatherings to no more than 50 people — are necessary to keep people safe.

“Should the Dean of Students Office, the Virginia Tech Police Department, or the Blacksburg Police Department need to respond to concerns about noise violations or disruptive parties, a referral will be made to the Office of Student Conduct for their follow-up,” Hughes wrote. “Recent off-campus incidents that have occurred over the past week have resulted in seven students being placed on interim suspension.”

Tech spokesman Mark Owczarski said in an email Thursday that the university can impose interim, or immediate, suspensions “if such action is necessary to preserve the safety of persons or property.”

“The Office of Student Conduct received a referral from local law enforcement related to large gatherings of students not practicing social distancing, not wearing masks and being disruptive to the community,” Owczarski wrote.

A student who faces an interim suspension has five days to request a meeting with administrators, according to the student handbook.

“During the review, the student will be given an opportunity to demonstrate why his or her continued presence on campus does not constitute a threat to themselves, others, or property,” the handbook states.

A separate student conduct hearing determines whether the student violated any university policies.

Owczarski said charges for the recent incidents could include “endangerment” and “disorderly or disruptive conduct.”

Radford University has suspended three students for “endangering conduct” and failure to comply with the university’s COVID-19 safety measures, The Roanoke Times reported Wednesday.

Community members in Blacksburg and Radford, as well as students themselves, have expressed concern that some students may not follow public health guidelines and could risk outbreaks of COVID-19, which has happened at universities nationwide.

Students living on campus at Tech began moving in Friday, and on-campus Radford students began moving in Aug. 1.

“As classes begin Monday, we must be unrelenting and uncompromising in our commitment to public health,” Hughes said in his message addressed to “Hokie Nation.”

“This includes you. We will succeed together — or we will fail together.”

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