Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 6, 2021
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COURTESY OF CHRIS H. PARK

The University has started to discipline students who may have contributed to the spike in COVID-19 cases on campus.

In an email to Hopkins affiliates, University administrators announced that the suspension of in-person classes and activities will be extended until Thursday, Feb. 11.

Small gatherings — indoors and outdoors — are prohibited, including outdoor walks with a small group of friends, according to Assistant Vice President of External Relations for the Office of Communications Karen Lancaster.

Some previously announced measures, however, have been relaxed. Students living in Charles Commons are now allowed to leave quarantine and no longer have to get daily COVID-19 tests. Student athletes still have to be tested every day and remain in their residences. All other undergraduate students have to be tested three times a week.

New student COVID-19 cases peaked at 44 with a 3% positivity rate and have since decreased significantly. Fewer tests have been conducted since Thursday, when nearly 2,500 tests were administered, but the positivity rate has also gone down to less than 1%.

In a meeting with students on Feb. 8, Provost Sunil Kumar and Senior Adviser to the President Lainie Rutkow explained that the University was forced to shut down the school given the initial uncertainty surrounding the outbreak.

“Five days later, our case counts are back into the single digits. If you think about what made the transition happen, the vast majority of the students followed the rules, because if they had not done that, it would not have been possible for us to get a handle on this.”

Kumar noted the difficulty contact tracers faced in their efforts as students were not being honest about the situation. 

“In those first 48 hours when everybody’s scrambling to figure out what happened, having people mislead contact tracers is extremely problematic,“ he said. “The vast majority of our students will be COVID-compliant. Unfortunately, that’s not enough because if a sufficiently small minority are not, it instantly will get out of hand.”

The University previously banned all in-person gatherings until Feb. 8 in response to a surge in positive COVID-19 cases among students. These cases were tied to a large gathering hosted by North Charles Social Club (WAWA), a former Hopkins chapter of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity. 

“In light of last weekend’s events, we strongly urge all students to avoid 3209 N. Charles Street,“ administrators wrote. “We will work with the residents of the property to help protect their health and safety, and to assist them if they wish to secure other lodgings.”

An individual whose friends were at the WAWA party told The News-Letter that the party was largely maskless and very crowded with at least 80 people, adding that some went to bars in Fells Point before going to the WAWA house. She requested anonymity to discuss details from private conversations.

Lancaster wrote in an email to The News-Letter that disciplinary processes under the student conduct code are underway in relation to the gathering.

“As we have stated before, should a student, organization, or team be found responsible for conduct violations, the full range of conduct sanctions will be considered up to and including suspension or expulsion,“ she said.

According to a sorority leader, Nick Wright, the assistant director of Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL), revealed in a meeting with fraternal organization leaders that there are at least three pending expulsions for students who knew they had COVID-19 and attended the party. Others who attended will be suspended.

The sorority leader, who requested anonymity citing the sensitive nature of the subject, also reported that Wright is offering amnesty for students who were at the party if they come forward to FSL with information. Around half of the serious infractions involve students in a sorority.

Hopkins has also launched an investigation into an alleged party at the Phi Kappa Psi (Phi Psi) fraternity on Friday, which took place only one day into the suspension of in-person events. The fraternity members are being tested daily and are required to remain in the house at this time.

Director of Student Leadership and Involvement Calvin Smith confirmed that he had been in contact with the fraternity leaders over the weekend but declined to elaborate.

Other Greek organizations at Hopkins have started planning and hosting in-person events as part of their recruitment process. The Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority (Kappa) announced yesterday that it will require all members to use NOVID, a contact tracing app that helps users visualize their potential exposure to COVID-19. The app does not track user location and operates anonymously.

Junior Deepa Ravindra, a member of Kappa and a NOVID student ambassador, believes that the app will help the sorority members meet each other safely once the ban on social gatherings is lifted.

“Execs wanted to initiate a contact tracing initiative to make sure our chapter is staying safe,“ she said. “They can see the trend of how and if positive cases are going through our group. It really helps execs to see what is going on, to see if they need to have a conversation with the group or to take specific actions if something does come up.”

Sophomore Evelyn Shiang, the online media director of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority (Theta), believes Hopkins should enact disciplinary measures for students violating safety protocols.

“On the meme page, I’ve seen a lot of Theta members actively calling out people who are sympathizing with the frats because it’s clear that their actions aren’t justified,“ she said. “The University should be stricter and very clear about what happens to people who are found to host these gatherings.”

Claire Goudreau contributed reporting to this article.

Phi Psi declined requests for a comment.

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