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Fairmont State off-campus parties draw criticism from administration, health department

Fairmont State University administrators warned students will face disciplinary measures for not following health and safety guidelines after learning about off-campus parties.
Fairmont State University administrators warned students will face disciplinary measures for not following health and safety guidelines after learning about off-campus parties.(WDTV)
Published: Aug. 20, 2020 at 3:26 PM EDT
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FAIRMONT, W.Va (WDTV) - Fairmont State University administrators warned students will face disciplinary measures for not following health and safety guidelines after learning about off-campus parties.

Marion County Health Department Administrator Lloyd White said he was disappointed after he said he learned of a large party involving some 150 university students. His staff recently spent nine days conducting COVID-19 testing for all students returning to campus for the fall.

"Those things are challenging and disappointing," White said. "Until everyone buys into the program...in trying to get folks to wear masks and take preventative measures, if we all do that and we all do our part well and not let our guard down, we will get through it sooner rather than later. But it's a challenge."

It's a similar story seen in college towns across the country as universities open back up for the fall and college administrators condemn large group gatherings. WVU's Dean of Students this week warned students can face penalties up to expulsion for violating safety guidelines.

White's comments came Wednesday night in a Facebook Live discussion with Marion County state delegates.

Fairmont State issued a statement Thursday to 5 News in response to the gatherings:

“From the very beginning, Fairmont State University’s policies and protocols for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic have been deeply rooted in safety for our students, our faculty, our staff, and our surrounding communities. Our priorities have always been to protect the entire Falcon Family and to ensure that we can safely resume operations and classes this fall. As an institution serving more West Virginians per capita than any other institution in the state, we have an obligation to provide students with the face-to-face education that they rely on, and that they expect - as long as it is safe to do so.

“Fairmont State takes very seriously our role in the Fairmont community and values our relationship with and trust from the citizens of Marion County. This past weekend, Fairmont State learned of small groups of students congregating off campus. Although off our campus, gathering outside of the State’s current guidelines, and without observing safety precautions is a serious matter. Fairmont State has made clear to its students, the University’s expectations for maintaining safety of self and others whether on or off campus. Students who do not follow these guidelines will be referred to Student Conduct for further investigation and discipline per Fairmont State Code of Conduct.

"According to the Student Code of Conduct, students and student organizations are required to engage in responsible social conduct that reflects credit upon the University and college community, and to model good citizenship in any community. To this end, the University will continue to work closely with the city of Fairmont and the Marion County Health Department to respond to any incidents involving our students. We appreciate the cooperative and longstanding relationship we have with both entities and look forward to keeping our students and community as safe as possible during these unprecedented times."

In-person classes began Monday at the university as it launched a phased reopening of campus.

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