With the return of students to US universities, comes spikes in COVID-19 cases. Several US universities are now holding in-person classes for the fall semester; many international and domestic students are back in dorms too, as administrators try to restore some sense of normalcy on campus.

Though limited in opening and with restrictions in place, many of the new coronavirus outbreaks in theUScould be traced to large student gatherings in universities. At the University of Alabama, off-campus gatherings and lack of adherence to guidelines have resulted in over 1000 positive COVID-19 cases.

This is happening as the US is registering six million COVID-19 cases, with the death toll at over 183,300 at the time of writing. With policies failing, university officials are cracking down on students holding gatherings or parties either on or off-campus to curb the spread of COVID-19 on their campuses.

What should international students in the US do?

As international students, you must be especially vigilant about what you can and cannot do when it comes to hosting or attending a party or get-together in US universities. If you get caught hosting a gathering, you could face suspension, which could then lead to the loss of your student visa. You may be required to return home as you will no longer be allowed to stay in student residence halls — think about all the hassle trying to get home with the current international travel restrictions in place today.

international students US

Incoming freshmen wait in line to ask questions at an informational tent while arriving on campus at University of Colorado Boulder on Aug. 18, 2020 in Boulder, Colorado.  Source: Mark Makela/Getty Images/AFP

International students in the US could get suspended — or worse — for violating guidelines

At Boston University, students holding or participating in gatherings of over 25 people will face suspension, which follows the limit on indoor congregations in Massachusetts.

After thanking students for following protocols such as COVID-19 testing, wearing masks, and physical distancing, BU associate provost and dean of students Kenneth Elmore wrote, “All of your efforts, however, to protect yourself and your household could be compromised if you choose to attend a large off-campus gathering, even for a brief period.

“There will be a few students who won’t take COVID-19 seriously and their stay in our community will be short-lived — if you host or attend a large off-campus or on-campus gathering, social, or party, you will be suspended from Boston University.” Suspended international students will not be allowed to attend any classes, either in-person or remotely, and will not receive any tuition or room and board refunds from their US university.

He also wrote, “If your student organisation, club sport, or team hosts a large (more than 25 people) gathering, social, party, or event, the organisation will be suspended and university recognition withdrawn, at minimum, throughout the fall semester.

“If you live on campus [in] student residences and violate these guidelines, you will have to move out of your room, suite, or apartment immediately and will not be permitted to live on campus for the remainder of the academic year.” Students can also report others who hold and attend gatherings that are “in violation of safety precautions” via a 24-hour hotline or online form, Elmore adds.

international students US

A cyclist wearing a facemask rides her bike at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, California on August 25, 2020 where coronavirus cases have seen an alarming increase with more than 100 students in quarantine from cases originating in off-campus housing. Source: Photo by Frederic J.Brown/AFP

At the University of Albany, four students were recently suspended over violating COVID-19 gathering violations while others are being investigated. UAlbany president Havidán Rodríguez wrote in a statement, “The Dean of Students Office had staff on the ground in midtown this weekend and is investigating, including reviewing social media posts in an effort to identify any members of our community acting irresponsibly.”

He added that any students found to have disregarded precautions will face “serious penalties — up to and including suspension or dismissal.” Unsure if you’re allowed to hold a gathering at this time or the number of people allowed to attend? If you absolutely must hold one, check with your university before making any arrangements or you could risk suspension.

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US universities see spike in COVID-19 cases as campuses reopen