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Student violations of COVID-19 ordinances will be reported to Student Affairs Office

A police car parked on Franklin Street outside of UNC's Alpha Tau Omega (ATO) fraternity on Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020 after a report that ATO was hosting a party that Saturday night.

UNC students who violate state or local ordinances or do not comply with community standards relating to COVID-19 will be subject to disciplinary action through the Student Affairs Office, according to an email from UNC Media Relations.

The Chapel Hill Police Department issued citations to four students on Aug. 24 after the students were found to be in violation of an executive order by Gov. Roy Cooper that prohibits indoor gatherings of over 10 people. The citations are Class 2 misdemeanors, which carry a punishment of fines or a jail time. The maximum punishment for repeat offenders is a $1,000 fine and a 60-day jail sentence. 

Chapel Hill police are providing the UNC Student Affairs Office with daily reports so the University can notify students and parents of these violations and, when appropriate, determine what administrative action they will take, according to a press release issued by the Town of Chapel Hill on Aug. 26.

A member, or members, of the Student Affairs Office will contact students living off campus who are found to be in violation of an ordinance or the community guidelines. Students will be subject to administrative or disciplinary action by the University, Media Relations said in an email.

Media Relations said administrative or disciplinary action against a student or organization can range from written warnings, to restriction of campus facilities access, to disenrollment from the University.

Town reactions

While the Town and University now share the responsibility of enforcing COVID-19 regulations, members of the community have discussed what they believe should happen next. 

In an email to town officials, Chapel Hill Town Council member Hongbin Gu said she supports the actions taken against violations of the emergency order.

“The egregious large group unprotected gatherings and intentional repeated violations of public safety guideline are reckless and can cause serious super-spread events in our community,” Gu told The Daily Tar Heel in an email. “I support our town's enforcement effort to stop them from happening.”

Town Council member Michael Parker said in an email to town officials that he believes the purpose of police involvement should be deterrence rather than punishment.

Parker said he thinks UNC has more ability to act in response to violations than the Town does.

“I think that UNC has a range of administrative procedures that it can employ that will be far more effective in hopefully deterring behavior than the Town or the county does,” Parker told the DTH.

He said UNC should publicize the actions they take in response to violations to deter other students from breaking guidelines.

Junior Brooke Dougherty said she thinks police should have been issuing citations and informing the University of violations weeks ago. She said this type of behavior reflects badly on UNC, and students need to be considerate of those around them.

“It might affect us the least for our age group, but it’s not just about us, it’s about the people around us and keeping people safe,” Dougherty said.

Senior Andreamarie Efthymiou said she recently reported a party in her apartment building to building security, but the security officers only told the residents to “keep it down” and left. She said enforcement of COVID-19 regulations is important so that students can feel safe in their homes.

“Even for off-campus students, we need to feel safe in our own buildings, going in and out of our apartments,” she said. “A lot of us are stuck here. We don’t have any other place to go, so it’s kind of discouraging to feel like you can’t be safe within your own home.”

Efthymiou said she thinks repeat offenders should face some kind of disciplinary action. She said she knows many students living off campus who think they are free to do what they want as long as they are not on campus.

“I don’t think UNC has made it really clear about expectations within the community as a whole and not just on campus,” she said.

Parker said he wants to keep the entire community, including students, safe and healthy. Irresponsible behavior from students endangers other students the most, he said.

“If there is irresponsible behavior, it’s the students who suffer from it first, so we really have to make sure that we’re taking care of everybody,” he said.

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