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BSU, UI confront student parties during pandemic

| August 28, 2020 1:16 PM

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Boise State University has suspended three fraternities for reportedly having large gatherings that officials fear could contribute to the spread of coronavirus.

Classes at BSU started on Monday. The university announced Friday that Pi Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Phi and Kappa Sigma fraternities as well as 18 students have been placed on interim suspensions while school officials investigate.

Normally the start of the school year comes with a spate of events and parties, often hosted by fraternities and sororities or members at off-campus locations. But many colleges and universities across the country have been asking students to avoid gatherings, stay socially distant and wear masks during the coronavirus pandemic. Other higher education institutions have switched to remote learning to avoid bringing crowds of students to campus.

Boise State University isn't alone when it comes to groups of students violating the rules. University of Idaho President C. Scott Green recently sent students a stern memo saying he was disappointed after hearing of several on- and off-campus parties. Green's memo warned that students could be disciplined and Greek student chapters could be closed for violating the coronavirus rules.

“Your behavior diminishes the hard work conducted all summer to prepare for your arrival,” Green wrote in the Aug. 21 missive. “Frankly, if you are not willing to support our university and those who want an in-person learning environment, you should not be here, and we will take the necessary steps to remove you from our community.”

Earlier this week University of Idaho Director of Communications Jodi Walker said that the entire freshman class of Beta Theta Pi fraternity had been moved to on-campus housing for allegedly violating the school's coronavirus protocols.

Just a few miles away in Whitman County, Washington, public health officials have warned of a substantial increase in COVID-19 cases involving Washington State University students. WSU has shifted to online learning for the fall semester, but many students still live in on-campus housing and in the privately owned Greek Row housing near campus. The latest increase in COVID-19 cases was traced to gatherings in the Greek Row area, WSU said in an Aug. 22 press release.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.