On September 4th, 2020, Northeastern University announced the dismissal of 11 first-year students. The students were in a hotel room together on a Wednesday evening. By Friday, the university had notified them and their parents that they had to leave the hotel they were staying in. The university also informed the students that “they are no longer part of the Northeastern community for the Fall semester.”
In any other year, this would constitute an inexplicable overreaction. In the time of COVID-19, at the beginning of a fall that introduced strict public health guidelines to campuses across the nation, these types of stories are not uncommon.
Pandemic-Related Punishments: Protecting Students from Penalties
The students, who had enrolled in Northeastern's modified International program (hence the hotel accommodations) will have the opportunity to appeal the university's decision. However, their treatment - ostensibly taken to abide by Northeastern's policies, and to keep the community safe - might not have been clearly telegraphed by Northeastern's code of conduct. According to Northeastern's pandemic-related FAQ website, students who host or attend unsafe parties “can expect suspension.”
If Northeastern - or any other school across the nation - treats its students unfairly or recommends outsized disciplinary measures during a pandemic, it could be very difficult to protect student rights when so many other issues are at play.
Northeastern is not the only university at which this is happening.
At Syracuse University in late August of 2020, a large group of students gathered on the campus Quad for about 45 minutes. After the campus police broke up the party, the university's security began working overtime. As a letter to the academic community reported the next morning, Syracuse staff were “reviewing security camera footage, interviewing witnesses and processing a number of tips” to properly adjudicate against those who were in attendance. Twenty-three students faced interim suspensions as a result.
The senior vice president of legal and public advocacy with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education notednoted Foundation for Individual Rights in Education notedthat “schools are taking a suspend first, expel first, and ask questions later stance.” Although it's undoubtedly important to ensure that all students are safe, many of the repercussions that schools are handing out may not fit the crime; and, in some cases, it appears that due process for these student's apparent offenses is only happening after their university metes out punishment.
Work with a Student Defense Attorney Today to Protect Your Educational Rights
If your university has taken action against you for any reason during the COVID-19 pandemic, you need to work to protect your educational investments and your future. Whether you fight to appeal punitive measures or seek alternative relief, you need an experienced legal team at your side to guide you successfully through that process. Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm will work tirelessly to provide you with the assistance you need. Contact us today by calling 888-535-3686.