Party fowl

Signs on the University of Delaware campus remind students to abide by the city’s strict limits on private gatherings.

The University of Delaware has suspended the women’s lacrosse team after members were caught attending a large party that violated Newark’s pandemic-related gathering restrictions.

The six-week suspension results in the cancellation of the team’s season, UD officials announced April 1. The team is 1-5 this year and was slated to play six more games.

“The health, safety, and well-being of our student-athletes and campus community are a priority at Delaware,” Athletic Director Chrissi Rawak said in a prepared statement. “We have spoken to our student-athletes at length about the protocols and guidelines that must be followed for us to provide a safe environment not only for the university but our community as well. We will continue to communicate with our student-athletes how important it is for them to honor the social pledge and stay disciplined in their choices.”

The party happened March 21 at an off-campus residence, but officials did not say how many team members attended or where it was. However, Kevin Tritt, a UD athletics spokesman, said the party violated the city’s limit of 10 people indoors, as well as a pledge that all student-athletes took regarding following health and safety protocols.

“UD student-athletes and staff follow strict NCAA- and UD-required surveillance testing protocols,” Tritt said. “All individuals are tested at least once a week, with many testing two to three times per week utilizing the University of Delaware on-campus surveillance testing program.”

This marks the second time UD has sanctioned athletes for violating the gathering limit. In October, 19 members of the swimming and diving team were suspended after attending an off-campus party.

Under Newark’s social gathering ordinance, which was passed in August in an attempt to curtail the spread of the coronavirus, parties and other gatherings at private residences are limited to 10 people indoors or 20 people outdoors. The law remains in effect, despite Gov. John Carney loosening state restrictions earlier this week.

Party guests, as well as the hosts of the party, can be cited under the law. If convicted, violators will be fined $100 to $500 and be ordered to complete up to 20 hours of community service. For a second offense, the penalty increases to $500 to $1,000 and up to 32 hours of community service.

UD students who are cited are referred to the university’s office of student conduct for additional sanctions. Under UD policy, students charged with hosting a party that violates the law will immediately receive a temporary suspension until the case is adjudicated. Those found guilty through the university judicial system will receive a full suspension and could be expelled.

Any student found guilty of attending a large party will also face UD sanctions, likely a deferred suspension, which is essentially probation.

UD did not disclose whether any lacrosse players contracted COVID-19, though officials had previously announced that the team’s March 27 game was postponed “due to COVID-19 protocols within the Delaware program.”

After seeing a significant spike in COVID-19 cases in late February – prompting the university to warn students of a potential campus lockdown if things didn’t improve – the case numbers have stabilized, with just under 90 cases per week the past two weeks.

The campus has seen just over 1,000 cases since the spring semester began.

This week, the state began vaccinating UD students, according to City Manager Tom Coleman, who noted it “will go a long way towards reducing the rate of infection in Newark since it appears to be mostly clustered in the college-aged population currently.”

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