Parents of three University of Massachusetts (UMass) freshmen are outraged after the school suspended them for attending off-campus parties without masks.
The students, who were part of “Blarney Blowout” — an early celebration of St. Patrick’s Day at UMass — were initially relegated to remote learning and finally suspended after maskless pictures of them from the party surfaced online.
Three female freshmen, all honors students, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst attended an off-campus party in March. A photo of the three not wearing masks was posted on Instagram.
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The furious parents are now challenging the school’s decision to strip the students of the entire academic semester and forfeit $16,000 tuition per student. They are planning to file a lawsuit against the university over the suspensions.
“This has been a nightmare,” a father told The Boston Herald, adding that he would accept the tuition loss if the school would just take his daughter back. “The UMass administration is so uninterested in compassion or reaching a reasonable solution,” he said.
The parents pointed out that there were scores of maskless photos of the UMass hockey team from the national championship parade a month later. This also included UMass President Martin Meehan, they said.
The three families are calling out the university, saying they find it “sickening and appalling” that it enforces rigid guidelines for students but follows none of them itself.
Throughout the pandemic, COVID protocol violations have prompted schools to take action against students.
UMass alone “adjudicated” over 1,000 COVID-related violations in the spring and punishments ranged from probation and removal from housing to suspension, UMass spokesperson Edward Blaguszewski informed The Boston Herald.
During the first weekend of March, the university suspended more than 10 students for partying. “This was during a time when the campus was operating at Elevated Risk during the pandemic and had just emerged from severe High-Risk restrictions due to a surge in positive COVID cases,” Blaguszewski said.
The three freshmen women received suspensions around the time when the school was on a higher-risk footing, he said.