Parties at UNH, Plymouth State spark warnings; UNH-sanctioned event draws dozens


Concord Monitor

Published: 08-27-2020 11:04 PM

College students returning to New Hampshire campuses under strict COVID-19 distancing restrictions have already tested school administrations with off-campus parties — and police officers are cracking down.

Three University of New Hampshire students were arrested Monday for unlawful possession of alcohol and underage drinking while at an off-campus party, according to a campuswide email sent by vice provost Kenneth Holmes.

According to the police report, students at the party were not complying with the university’s COVID-19 policies.

Holmes condemned the students’ actions in the email, which was sent Wednesday.

“It is reckless behavior like this that will necessitate UNH pivoting back to remote-only,” Holmes wrote. “In the end, you and your peers will have the final say if we stay together or not.”

Even as rules are being enforced around off-campus parties, one event hosted by the university drew an equal crowd.

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The same day that Holmes’ email was sent out, students gathered on campus in large numbers to attend an ice cream social and bonfire event hosted by the university’s Housing and Residential Life office, according to reports by student journalists from The New Hampshire, UNH’s newspaper.

Photos of the event posted to The New Hampshire’s Twitter account show about 70 students standing close together outdoors, not abiding by social distancing rules. Some are wearing face coverings, but many are not.

The event took place outside first-year dorms Williamson Hall and Christiensen Hall, one day after first-year students moved into on-campus housing.

Residential life staff broke up the gathering after complaints were made, according to The New Hampshire.

UNH has created a system for reporting incidents of people breaking COVID-19 policies that involves an online complaint form, officially called the COVID Incident Reporting Form, that is posted on the university website.

The form can be used by students, faculty, staff and members of the public to report a safety problem. Users are asked to provide their contact info and can submit written details about their complaint and upload photos.

The university will review each report and any students who are found to have violated conduct will meet with the dean of students.

“While enforcement is essential, establishing a culture of safety is imperative,” Holmes wrote. “The more we can do in our own small way to build that culture, the better off we will be.”

UNH isn’t the only Granite State university already responding to reports of student gatherings.

On Aug. 21, Plymouth State University sent an email to students condemning some off-campus student parties that were reported on the night of Aug. 20. Large groups of students gathered for parties in places around Plymouth and Holderness, including at one party held at “Secret Beach” — a sandy spot on the Pemigewasset River near campus — according to the email, which was signed by university President Donald Birx, Dean of Students Jeff Furlone and Vice President of Communications Marlin Collingwood.

The parties happened one day after the start date for new student move-in, and the day before returning students were scheduled to arrive back to campus.

“Please know that we are investigating these incidents,” the email read. “If we determine that Plymouth State University students were involved in hosting or attending these events, we will swiftly impose sanctions that could include removal from the university for the remainder of the semester.”

The administrators went on to say that teams of Plymouth State staff members, campus police officers and town of Plymouth police officers will be monitoring neighborhoods around campus to prevent students from gathering.

Area landlords and local residents are being asked to report large group activities so they can be shut down.

“We do not want to be forced to end the semester prematurely because some refuse to follow the protocols need ed to keep you, your classmates, and the community safe and healthy,” the email read. “We are all in this together, and together, we’re better.”