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UW warns students of disciplinary action for ignoring COVID-19 precautions

An outbreak of COVID-19 has infected at least 177 fraternity and sorority members in 14 chapters at the University of Washington.

SEATTLE — University of Washington's Greek community remains in the middle of a "significant" coronavirus outbreak, Vice President for Student Life Denzil Suite warned in a letter to community members.

A total of 177 students in 14 fraternities and sororities tested positive for the novel coronavirus as of Oct. 6, according to Suite. 

In the letter, Suite urged students to limit gatherings to a maximum of five masked, socially distanced people per week, even if they live in the same house or residence. 

Another letter - sent to chapter presidents of residential-based fraternities and sororities, advisors, house corporation presidents, the Interfraternity Council, and the Panhellenic Association - warned of action that could be taken should students or groups of students continue to fail to comply with university and public health guidance for disease control measures.

The university said action against students or groups includes:

  • Triggering an investigation through the UW Student Code of Conduct, with outcomes that may result in "disciplinary sanctions" ranging from "reprimand to suspension or dismissal from the university," the letter states. 
  • Notice to landlords regarding gatherings, parties, and disregard for COVID-19 prevention. Threats to public safety can be "grounds for legal action involving a landlord. For Greek houses, that includes formal communication with house corporations and/or advisory boards.
  • An order from Public Health -Seattle & King County to comply with prevention and control measures. Court orders can be specific to a fraternity, sorority, another group, or an individual. Failure to comply would result in a court order for compliance issued by a judge.

Suite reminded students that the university “offers and strongly encourages” COVID-19 testing through the Husky Coronavirus Testing program. Suite stressed that reporting positive cases and contact tracing is “critical to stemming the spread of COVID-19,” adding that university officials would not use contact tracing information to discipline students.

"This isn’t the college environment anyone was expecting, but COVID-19 is a reality we need to adapt to by changing our behaviors and activities for the foreseeable future," the letter concludes.

"We know UW students are up to the challenge. In this coronavirus pandemic individuals, families, communities and institutions are called upon to step up for each other. Driving down infection rates in order to minimize loss of life and livelihood requires sustained action and mutual support across all sectors of our community, and we ask that you honor and abide by the Husky Pledge. Thank you for your cooperation."