A group of MU freshman run through the columns for Tiger Walk

Incoming freshmen run through the MU Columns on Aug. 19 for the Tiger Walk tradition, modified for COVID-19. Two MU students have been expelled and three suspended because of their "willful and knowing actions that threatened the safety of our campus and community," according to a mass email sent Tuesday by Bill Stackman, MU vice chancellor for student affairs. 

Two MU students have been expelled and three suspended because of their “willful and knowing actions that threatened the safety of our campus and community,” according to a mass email sent Tuesday by Bill Stackman, MU vice chancellor for student affairs.

The email also said 11 student organizations are under investigation for violating COVID-19 health and safety policies.

These violations may have been reported to MU by students, faculty and staff, or by authorities such as the MU and Columbia police departments.

“The actions that these students took directly put others at risk,” MU spokesperson Christian Basi said at a late afternoon news conference. “Once we found out what they had done, and that they had done it willingly and knowingly, we felt that we had no other course of action to take but to expel them.”

Because of student privacy rights, he declined to share more details about their behavior or whether they tested positive for COVID-19.

“I can only say at this point that they were knowledgeable about the actions they were taking, they were deliberate, they were flagrant and they put others at risk,” Basi said.

The student organizations under investigation could have been reported because of an event that exceeded the maximum attendees allowed or events that didn’t follow social distancing, Basi said. He would not provide names because they are still being investigated.

“If we find there is reason to discipline those organizations, and that discipline becomes permanent, that information becomes public typically on a student organization website,” Basi said.

The violations include not complying with social distancing requirements and isolation requirements for those who have tested positive for COVID-19.

MU can punish students for on-campus and off-campus violations of baseline safety guidelines. According to an Aug. 12 statement from the Office of Student Affairs, those safety behaviors were addressed in the university’s Show Me Renewal plan and include:

• Maintaining social distancing of 6 feet between people on and off campus.

• Prohibiting events with more than 20 people.

• Wearing face coverings both on and off campus, per city ordinance.

• Checking symptoms daily and not going to class or public places on or off campus if symptoms are present.

Among the lighter consequences for violating the safety guidelines are community service, damage restitution or writing a research paper on the effects of COVID-19. The most severe consequences students face are suspension and expulsion, according to previous Missourian reporting.

Violations can be reported using a form on the Office of Accountability and Support website with as many details as possible. That includes an address, photos or names of students to allow the office to track those students and determine what happened.

As of Friday, 470 violations since Aug. 16 have been reported to the Office of Accountability and Support for possible violations, according to a news release from the MU News Bureau.

MU does not typically release disciplinary action against students but made an exception this time given the seriousness of the offenses and implications for public health, the release said.

  • Fall 2020 Education Reporter Studying Investigative Journalism Reach me at rsandurkar@mail.missouri.edu or in the newsroom at (573) 882-5700.

  • Elizabeth Brixey is the Columbia Missourian's education editor and an associate professor in the Missouri School of Journalism. She can be reached at (573) 882-2632 and brixeye@missouri.edu.

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