Pre-Halloween gatherings on and off campus result in consequences

Isabella Gentile, Editor-in-Chief

Two separate gatherings that violated the state’s social gathering limit have since resulted in university fines, three suspensions from residency and multiple students being placed on probation for the rest of the academic year.

On Oct. 31, students were made aware of an off-campus gathering on Oct. 30 that had more than 30 RWU students in attendance. Vice President of Student Life John King delivered this news via all-student email, in which he said the university received notice from the Bristol Police Department and the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) pertaining to a large gathering at a house rented by RWU students on Prospect Street in Bristol.

According to the police report, Bristol Police received a tip in regards to a large house party on Oct. 30, stating many college aged individuals were coming in and out of the Prospect Street residence in costumes. Police estimated between 60-75 individuals observed to be at the party, according to the report. Officers began to attempt to ID all remaining parties at the scene but reported that a high number of individuals fled before and upon their arrival. A majority of the parties involved were observed without masks or face coverings while inside the residence or speaking with police, the report said.

“We are in a pandemic and in the United States, the last two days set back to back records for the most cases recorded in a single day since the pandemic started,” King said in the Oct. 31 email. “Attending a large gathering given all of the information and warnings that have been provided by the CDC, the state of Rhode Island, and the university is reckless and endangers not only individuals attending but all those you come in contact with along with those individuals’ close contacts.”

In an interview with The Hawks’ Herald, King said the Office of Student Life is aware of a large gathering that occurred in Bristol on Oct. 30, though he could not confirm if the gathering being investigated by the university was the party cited in the police report on Prospect Street. King said a hearing was held by Student Conduct on Saturday, Oct. 31, when it was decided that the hosts of the off-campus party would be placed on probation for the remainder of the academic year. Each host is also receiving a $500 fine from the state of Rhode Island for violating Gov. Raimondo’s executive order, which reduced the social gathering limit from 15 to 10 on the same day the gathering was held.

If these individuals are involved in any additional violations, consequences will be more severe.

“Their hosting or attending of another gathering in violation of the executive order will result in suspension from the university,” King said.

In this interview, King also referenced a separate, same-day incident on campus, which he said occurred in a residence hall on the night of Oct. 30. He said three students hosted a gathering of approximately 30 people in their residence hall room, which led to these hosts being removed from residency for the rest of the semester. The three hosts and party attendees are being fined $100 each by the university for health and safety violations. All proceeds from these fines will go toward the university’s testing funds.

“It is our hope both in Student Life and the university that students will understand that this past weekend was problematic and that there are significant consequences for violating the state executive order and the university’s public health expectations,” King said. “We need to stay together, stay close and pay attention to mask compliance, social distancing and limiting the number of people we are with at any one time.”

WPRI 12 reported the daily rate of positive coronavirus tests in Rhode Island passed 5% last weekend for the first time since late May, citing data released Monday by the Rhode Island Department of Health. 466 new positive cases were identified in the state on Nov. 3 alone, with a 3.6% positivity rate for that day, according to RIDOH.

As of Nov. 3, the university’s COVID-19 Data Hub recorded seven new positive test results, with a total of 21 active positive COVID-19 cases in the RWU community. In the Oct. 31 all-student email, King said those in attendance at the off-campus gathering who were not documented still needed to be identified by the university, and that their COVID testing would need to be monitored during the two weeks that followed. King declined to comment on whether university contact tracing has revealed any positive test results in connection to either of the gatherings.

“Halloween was not good,” King said. “We’re not shocked that we had difficulty, that we had increased positives this week, but students need to take this seriously.”