Benajil Rai / Multi Media Director

When the Keene police had to shut down a large social gathering in a location near to the campus of Keene State College, the school elected to suspend two students for their violation of the Community Commitment Acknowledgement, the college’s codes of conduct regarding the coronavirus disease.

As outlined by Keene State’s Dean of Students and Associated Vice-President for Student Affairs Gail Zimmerman, KSC students received an email in April of this year informing them of the addendum made to the college’s codes of conduct pertaining to social gatherings. 

In July, the school tasked all students planning on returning to life on campus with signing the Community Commitment Acknowledgement, an official agreement to the college’s expectations on behavior in light of the currently ongoing public health crisis posed by the spread of COVID-19.

KSC President Melinda Treadwell explained when asked about the incident that, “the codes of conduct allow no more than 10 individuals at a social gathering, but that is moving up to 25. […] One of the hosts of the party signed the agreement that same afternoon of the party. The two young women hosted an off-campus party at a location adjacent to the college with more than 50 people present. There were no masks and no social distancing. The police showed up to shut it down, and everyone scattered.”

Treadwell also clarified that four large gatherings involving students occurred over the summer similar to this, and two of the previous incidents resulted in suspensions as well.

The college gave few further information about the individuals involved, but Treadwell stated the two female students who hosted the party face suspension for the remainder of the semester, on the recommendation of the authorities who reported the shutdown to the nearby college. “It’s not an easy decision to make,” she expressed. “I’m not trying to make it not-fun for students at the college, but these are serious and unprecedented circumstances we are under.”

She further mentioned that despite agreeing with the decision to suspend them, she hopes the involved students will return to attending classes normally in the future, once the period of suspension has passed.

Zimmerman also declined to comment on the specific event in respect to the involved students’ privacy. She stated other college campuses have decided to shut down entirely and to host the coming semester completely remotely because of their concerns regarding large social gatherings attended by students, similar to this incident.

Zimmerman described how the code of conduct signed by students applies to their behavior both on-campus and off-campus. “I know this is not what you believed your college experience would be,” she said. “We really want to impress, though, that students are in control of their destiny here.” 

She continued by recommending students focus on ‘social bubbles,’ or small groups of friends they can spend time socializing with in safe and healthy ways. She expressed her optimism about the coming school year and her trust in the students of Keene State to keep each other safe and work well within the college’s guidelines. “Wouldn’t it be awesome if Keene State became the model for how to reopen successfully?” she said.

 

Lonnie Hiltz can be contacted at 

lhiltz@kscequinox.com