BLACKSBURG, Va. – Monday marked the first day back in class at Virginia Tech for a fall semester like no other.
After seven students were suspended last week, the university is taking a stricter stance and clarified its COVID-19 policies over the weekend to include:
- No non-university sanctioned gatherings, on or off-campus, larger than 15 people.
- Face masks should be worn at all social gatherings, with 6-foot physical distancing.
- Independent outdoor exercise is the only exception to the mask requirement.
“It’s a smart decision,” said freshman Ragen Renner.
Renner and another freshman, Claire Ganzenmuller, said they are fine with the rules so they can at least have some semblance of a normal college experience.
“Schools are slowly shutting down. So, I mean, I’m OK with whatever guidelines they put in place just so that I can stay on campus for my freshman year,” said Renner.
“This is definitely an incentive to follow the rules,” said Ganzenmuller. “I mean, no one really wants to be suspended.”
University spokesperson Mark Owczarski said the campus and surrounding Blacksburg communities are fragile.
“An outbreak could, for example, send us home,” said Owczarski. “So what we’re doing is making it very clear to our students what they must do. If they want to stay here and be part of a residential experience, we can’t do what we did a year ago.”
Across southwest Virginia, other colleges are dishing out punishments. Roanoke College suspended six students. Radford University suspended three students.
In response, neither school is adding new rules, just enforcing those already in place.
“We knew that there were going to be cases, but that is why we have a robust plan in place. And that is why we need everyone to do their part,” said Radford University Associate Vice President for University Relations, Caitlyn Scaggs.
Renner said she’s hoping her fellow Hokies don’t take the guidelines lightly.
“Those people not following those guidelines, obviously, are going to ruin it for the rest of us,” said Renner.