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Florida Colleges Looking To Crack Down On Students Not Wearing Masks, Participating In Large Gatherings

Aerial view of Florida State University's campus and the surrounding Tallahassee area.
Erich Martin
Florida State University is one of many colleges across the state looking to enforce it's COVID-19 safety protocols by having rule breakers face serious consequences.

When Florida colleges decided to hold in-person fall classes, not everyone was happy. Students unknowingly infected with COVID-19 could end up spreading the virus in local communities. The United Faculty of Florida's Marshall Ogletree says universities don't have any real control over what students do off-campus. Before universities reopened, his group called for all colleges to do remote learning.

"The university and college can do everything they want to do between let's say eight o'clock in the morning and five o'clock or even anytime on campus in the evening," Ogletree says. "But what are the students doing in the other times?"

To prevent large gatherings in Tallahassee, Florida A & M University, imposed a curfew. Students living on campus have to be inside their residence halls from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Those living off-campus can be subject to FAMU's COVID-19 Conduct Enforcement Procedure if they attend large gatherings.

Florida State University President John Thrasher released a statement saying students found participating in house parties or not wearing masks could face serious consequences. FSU's Shannon Staten says that includes disciplinary probation or suspension:

"The first offense is not going to be anything more than a warning and possibly something they have to do—if they were in a group of students without their mask on they may be asked to quarantine for the 14 days just to make sure that they have not been exposed [to the virus]."

The University of Florida in Gainesville is hoping to educate students who are breaking COVID-19 guidelines.

"We want to help people understand what the expectations are and why it's important to follow these policies. So our hope is that we can address most of these with education," University of Florida's Steve Orlando says.

He explains students could face serious consequences depending on the situation:

"It might include interim suspension for 14 days, and then I guess that would be sort of the midrange. The lower end would be no punishment, just education. Please do what you need to do, and then you go all the way up to as I say, the potential for expulsion."

At the University of Central Florida in Orlando, violating COVID-19 guidelines could lead to a student being removed from housing or campus.

The University of South Florida in Tampa has similar rules—students may face disciplinary action and be removed from campus.