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Northeastern University dismisses nearly a dozen freshmen for allegedly violating COVID-19 rules

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Deagreez/iStockBY: KARMA ALLEN, ABC NEWS    

(BOSTON) — Northeastern University said it has dismissed 11 freshmen who allegedly violated coronavirus social distancing rules this week as students returned to campus for the fall semester, officials said Friday.

The students, all members of the university’s study abroad program, known as N.U.in, were caught gathering on Wednesday at a temporary dormitory, located about a mile away from the school’s Boston campus, school officials said.

Staff members, who were on call and making rounds at the time, said they discovered the students gathering without masks or social distancing — a direct violation of the university’s health and safety protocols that ban crowded gatherings, according to Madeleine Estabrook, senior vice chancellor for student affairs at Northeastern.

“Cooperation and compliance with public health guidelines is absolutely essential,” Estabrook said in a statement Friday. “Those people who do not follow the guidelines — including wearing masks, avoiding parties and other gatherings, practicing healthy distancing, washing your hands, and getting tested — are putting everyone else at risk.”

The students were among 818 N.U.in program students staying in two-person rooms at the Westin Hotel in Boston as part of a temporary housing plan. The program is an international experience for first-year students that has been modified in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and now includes Boston as one of the locations, school officials said.

The 11 students and their parents were notified Friday that they must vacate the campus within 24 hours. Before departing, they were required to undergo COVID-19 testing at the university “with the understanding that anyone who tests positive will be moved into wellness housing at the university until they have recovered, in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” the school said.

Students, faculty and staff are required to undergo regular testing under Northeastern’s COVID-19 policy.

“Testing negative for COVID-19 is not enough,” Estabrook said. “We must practice all of the public health guidelines in order to keep ourselves and the community healthy. Together, we can keep each other safe, but it will require everyone’s consistent cooperation.”

Students were formally notified as recently as this week that they were required to practice physical distancing, avoid crowds and wear masks in the presence of other people, officials said.

They were also required to acknowledge that they had reviewed the program handbook, detailing the COVID-19 requirements, at the beginning of the semester.

The handbook also notifies students that they are not permitted to have guests or additional occupants in their bed spaces, the school said.

The dismissed students will be permitted to return in the spring, but they will not receive a refund. The special one-semester program is estimated to cost about $36,500, according to the school’s website.

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