WAUKESHA, Wis. — Carroll University held a news conference this morning after three students were suspended for holding an off-campus party days before school resumed.
School officials say that the party violated their code of conduct related to COVID-19, but the students who hosted the event claim it is not so clear cut.
"Choosing to open the university for in-person instruction during a pandemic is not something that we take lightly," said Carroll University President Cindy Gnadinger.
Gnadinger stressed, that like every other college, they adopted new policies and guidelines to help contain the spread of COVID-19. Students had to read and sign a statement saying they agreed and understood the changes.
"The COVID-19 policies do apply to student gatherings off-campus as those guidelines and gatherings could undermine our efforts to hold our instruction and activities on campus this year," said Gnadinger.
Tanner Hoffman and Blake Williams are two of the three students that were suspended. They say the agreement they signed did not mention off-campus events and that they even checked with a campus office before inviting people over.
"The rules are very vague and very confusing, and it seems that they may or may not have added some things after the fact of our get-together," said Hoffman.
They feel the semester-long suspension is too harsh, considering they have not been in trouble with the school before this.
"Students go to the bars, students go hang out with each other on-campus and off-campus. I mean, you just can’t control what people do. To suspend them for the first offense it just doesn’t make any sense," said Williams.
The students' appeal to the suspension was denied. They say their future at the university is uncertain.
"I don’t really know how a school would take that when you apply if you want to leave. If you want to stay we have to reapply to Carroll and that could affect our scholarships," said Williams.
School officials said least 20 students who attended the party are currently in quarantine and will receive additional sanctions. However, those students will not be suspended.
The students showed TMJ4 News a copy of an agreement they signed, which did not mention events off-campus. However, when asked about it, school officials pointed out the form was only one of the steps students had to take for the agreement, and sent a link to the webpage that references policies apply to students on and off-campus.
"I’m just adhering to the guidelines we put in place. I assume it might send a message to other students that we’re just serious about our guidelines and serious about the health and safety of everyone in this community," said Gnadinger.