The University of Missouri has expelled two students and suspended three others for violating coronavirus rules after a similar action from Northeastern University earlier this month prompted public debate on whether colleges are cracking down too harshly on students for behavior many deem inevitable.
The University of Missouri’s Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Bill Stackman announced the expulsions in a letter sent to students and staff on Tuesday, saying the students engaged in “willful and knowing actions” that threatened the safety of the campus and community.
Stackman said in addition to the five expelled and suspended, 11 other student organizations are under investigation and additional cases are pending that he “[expects] will result in similar outcomes.”
The university did not respond to questions from Forbes about which policies the students violated and whether they will be refunded tuition for the rest of the semester.
The University of Missouri has reported 1,347 coronavirus cases since it began collecting data in mid-August, while Boone County, where the school is located, is among the country’s communities with the most total cases per capita, reporting 848 positive tests per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks.
Stackman said the failure to follow coronavirus-era rules, particularly a ban on gatherings of over 20 people, has contributed to spread in the community.
Earlier this month, Northeastern University expelled 11 first-year students for gathering in a hotel room “in violation of university and public health protocols that prohibit crowded gatherings.” The university said it would not refund their $36,500 tuition. This decision spurred debate over whether the expulsion was merited or too harsh a punishment given the extreme circumstances.
“You know, they are just freshmen, this was one mistake,” said the editor of Northeastern’s college newspaper Kelly Chan in a CNN interview. “Freshmen are put in a very tough situation—we always come to college campuses expecting to make new friends to socialize, and it can be tempting to gather and want to salvage that college experience.”