Student conduct violations, Greek organization suspensions accompany major COVID-19 spike

Domenic Mesa and Hannah Mayer

During the first week of classes, the university has seen numerous conduct issues, specifically violations of COVID-19 safety precautions.

Erica Woodley, dean of students and assistant vice president of student affairs, highlighted that students are not wearing masks on and off campus in an email sent out Jan. 27. Students continue to gather in large groups, host parties and go to bars and restaurants. 

Woodley’s statements reflect a recent spike in COVID-19 cases on Tulane’s campus. Tulane’s COVID-19 Dashboard reported a 2.5% increase in positive test results between Jan. 25 and Jan. 26. 2,806 total COVID-19 tests on Jan. 25 yielded 28 positive results for Tulane’s student population. Likewise, 2,069 total COVID-19 tests on Jan. 26 marked an increase, with 69 students and 3 employees testing positive. As of Jan. 26, 252 students have tested positive. 

Large groups of unmasked students congregating in local bars and off-campus parties are the most obvious source of these [COVID-19] cases,” Woodley said.

In a Jan. 27 email, Woodley addressed the rise in conduct issues last week. She reiterated the university’s conduct expectations, which were sent out in a Jan. 22 email. Woodley reflected on the severity of breaking these expectations. 

“By their actions, this small segment of students has displayed reckless disregard for others,” Woodley said. “This type of behavior is the antithesis of everything Tulane stands for and attempts to impart to its students.”

Woodley reminded students that the school is currently in a high priority period, where normal misconduct will face more severe consequences than usual. 

Students involved in recent COVID-19 violations will face serious consequences.

“Students who host parties will still face suspension or expulsion and … students who attend parties or gatherings that fall outside of what is permitted will also face suspension,” Woodley said. “Students who attend bars/restaurants that are not following the COVID regulations will also face disciplinary action — which may include suspension … We have also placed six Greek organizations on interim suspension due to reports of misconduct related to COVID-19 behavioral expectations.”

“These organizations have been placed on interim suspension for reported violations of COVID-19 safety protocols which Tulane has established to protect the health of the Tulane community and residents of our city,” Liz Schafer, director of Fraternity and Sorority Programs, said. “As a result of these suspensions these organizations will not be allowed to engage in chapter activities until the conduct process has reached a resolution.” 

Both Schafer and Woodley refused to name the organizations placed on interim suspension.

“We are still early in the investigations of these, so…. we are not comfortable sharing this information.” Woodley said.  

The refusal to name Greek organizations on interim suspension is a break from previous Tulane administration policy. In August of 2020, Schafer responded to a request for information from The Hullabaloo, confirming that fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon was suspended on an interim “as the result of an ongoing conduct investigation.”

Woodley emphasizes that individual behavior has never been more important.

“Our public schools currently are unable to open, which has a disproportionate impact on marginalized students and families,” Woodley said.  Businesses have had to close down multiple times or pivot to accommodate city mandated COVID restrictions.  People’s lives and livelihoods are on the line and our individual choices have a direct and significant impact on the return to normalcy.”