Northeastern University has suspended 11 first-year students for the remainder of the fall semester after they were found in a room together in breach of the school's coronavirus policies, which strictly forbid gatherings.
The students and their parents were notified Friday of the university's decision to dismiss them for the duration of the semester, and the students were handed instructions to leave the dorms within 24 hours, according to a statement from the school.
The group was discovered on Wednesday night by university staff during a round of checks and found to be in violation of the school’s public health guidelines by gathering in a single room.
All 11 students have been tested for COVID-19 and told they would be transferred to a wellness center until they recover if they tested positive.
“The students have been informed that they are no longer part of the Northeastern community for the fall semester. They have the right to contest their dismissal at an expedited hearing,” the school said in its statement.
The first-year students, who were not named publicly, were enrolled in the university’s N.U.in Program, an experience in which students were originally meant to spend the fall semester studying abroad before returning to the Boston campus in January. However, due to COVID-19, the university instead housed over 800 students in that program at the Westin Hotel in Boston, less than 1 mile from campus.
The estimated tuition cost for a semester in that program is $36,543. The suspended students will not be able to get a refund on their fees, the university said, citing the program's guidelines.
Northeastern did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.
In a message sent out before the start of the academic year, the school warned that students who hosted or attended what it deemed to be an “unsafe gathering, social or party” could expect suspension or expulsion, depending on the circumstances.
“Northeastern and its community of students, faculty, and staff take violations of health and safety protocols very seriously,” said Madeleine Estabrook, senior vice chancellor for student affairs at Northeastern. “Cooperation and compliance with public health guidelines is absolutely essential.”
The Boston school has emphasized that it would be testing rigorously in order to protect students and staff from the coronavirus, amid earlier criticism for its decision to host in-person classes and raising tuition by 3.7%.
Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun previously told the school's student-run newspaper that more than $50 million had been invested to ensure that the university could reopen safely, along with initiatives like contact tracing and building their own testing labs where 5,000 tests are done daily.
“The situation is endemic and is going to be with us for two to three years, and we believe that the best experience is the experience that is residential,” he told the Huntington News.
Northeastern University has 23 confirmed coronavirus cases to date, with more than 40,000 tests conducted, according to its COVID-19 dashboard.