COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The University of Missouri said in an email sent out Tuesday afternoon two students have been expelled and three others were suspended for violating the university's COVID-19 policies.
University officials said in a news conference on Tuesday that nine MU organizations are temporarily suspended, while two organizations' suspensions were lifted but are still under investigation for suspected policy violations.
MU Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Bill Stackman, said in the email "parties and other blatant violations of the safety guidelines have occurred."
Due to federal law, Christian Basi a spokesperson for the university could not provide details on what exact actions led up to disciplinary actions, nor could he say if those students have COVID-19.
Although, Basi did say the students who faced consequences were knowledgeable and deliberate about what they were doing and were directly putting others at risk.
He mentioned having more than 20 people gathered in one area, lack of proper social distancing measures in place and not wearing masks were some complaints the university had received.
"The university will not hesitate to hold those flouting the rules accountable," Stackman said.
Basi said this is not a usual action the university takes as they have previously expelled at most two people per year, but officials felt they had no other choice.
“So for us to take this action," Basi said. "It's extremely serious. We told everyone at the beginning of the semester that we would be holding students accountable. we are holding students accountable.”
UM System President and MU Chancellor Mun Choi testified before the Special Committee on Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday afternoon, stating egregious behavior -- like going out and mingling with other students while knowingly exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms could lead to student expulsion.
Choi stated that MU's two main challenges are off-campus activities as well as keeping up with contact tracing.
"I’m not here to blame students for getting COVID," Choi said. "That would be wrong. But I am blaming students who willfully disregard the public health guidelines and in some cases knowingly spread COVID...that is unacceptable behavior."
The email did not list the organizations under investigation or the names of the students disciplined, but Basi stated that 10 out of the 11 MU organizations that are suspended are sororities or fraternities.
During the news conference, Basi said there are a variety of sources within the campus community who reported many violations.
Those include other MU students, faculty and staff, MUPD and CPD officers.
He also mentioned that the university currently has around 470 cases that have been referred to the student accountability office.
"Those are cases," Basi said. "Those are not individual students so it may be that one student could be responsible for more than one case, or it could be that we have multiple students on one case. So it's a variety of factors.”
Weeks ago, the university implemented a ban on social gatherings of 20 or more because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Stackman emphasized in the email parties and other gatherings have led to the spread of COVID-19 on-campus. He added tailgating will not be permitted this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
ABC 17 News spoke with a MU student who said she was shocked to hear about the punishments.
“I definitely think it's very like shocking," said Alexi Hauser. "I feel like it really will show that people like do need to be careful... be careful what they put on social media like gatherings and everything... because obviously like the university is taking it really serious.”
While another MU students said he was not as shocked to hear the news, as he believes some disciplinary action needed to be done but he thought it would be something minor.
"I do think expulsion is a rather severe punishment," said Collin McElduff. "I mean, especially with the thousands of dollars it cost to go here and just want to get the opportunity University provides I mean, that would be a huge setback to those individuals."
McElduff said the punishment is very severe, maybe a little too severe.
"I think maybe display information or academic probation would have been a more reasonable position to take on that,” said McElduff.