Nearly every student suspended from the University of Colorado Boulder so far this year was suspended for violating local or campus coronavirus mandates, according to university leaders.
CU Boulder has suspended 24 students for not following coronavirus public health measures as of Wednesday, and those students must reapply for admission next semester.
The campus has seen “very little, if any” suspensions outside of coronavirus violations, said Devin Cramer, assistant dean of students.
Cramer declined to give an exact number, citing concerns about student privacy.
CU Boulder sees approximately 25 to 30 suspensions during a typical academic year, Cramer said, most of those in the fall semester.
“That’s not comparing apples to apples this year. Outside of COVID-19 related suspensions, we’re seeing a lot less concerning behavior from students, a lot less concerning behaviors regarding alcohol,” Cramer said. “We’re not seeing many felony-type behavior or repeat behavior that we would in a regular semester.”
Every suspension for coronavirus has been related to either hosting a party or for breaking isolation, Cramer said. There have been no suspensions for repeated smaller infractions, like not wearing a mask.
The vast majority of students referred to the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution are sent there for small violations, Cramer said, like students having too many guests in their dorm rooms or not wearing face coverings while going to the bathroom down the hall. Most of those students are not repeat offenders.
Some of the referrals stem from confusion among students about changing coronavirus rules or not reading their housing contracts to see what’s required, Cramer said. For students who host parties, Cramer said he’s heard from several students this week that gatherings grew larger than they intended.
“They’ll invite friends over and while that violates the public health order if it’s 12 or 15 people, those friends then invite 10 friends who invite 10 friends,” Cramer said.
If a student is hosting a party that grows too large, they can contact police to help break it up and not be disciplined by the university, Cramer said.
On-campus students who are not taking their weekly coronavirus monitoring tests are also referred to the conduct office, as that’s a requirement of living on campus.
Most off-campus students are referred to the conduct office through the Boulder Police Department, as well as some reports from students and community members. On-campus students are mostly referred by student employees in residence halls or residential service officers who work for campus police.
Resident advisors have always been tasked with enforcing campus policies, though that took on an extra layer of responsibility this year with new coronavirus rules.
RAs received coronavirus training over the summer, said Director of Residence Life Crystal Lay, and are in regular contact with hall directors to ask questions or follow up.
What’s been difficult is that the job has become much more about enforcement than about building community, Lay said. Community building is one aspect university leaders have pledged to improve during the spring semester.
“The heartburn that I’ve heard directly is that they feel a little isolated and lonely, because it wasn’t as evenly balanced as in the past,” Lay said. “There wasn’t this large, in-person community feel and fun pieces that they were hoping for.”
Departments across campus are collaborating to improve the student experience, Lay said, as well as asking students what they want to see more of while “balancing that community with safety.”
“RAs have a really hard job. They are student leaders, they’re taking on this wonderful opportunity to really engage their peers, and I hope their peers see that and see them as leaders and helpers instead of solely enforcers,” Lay said.