A noted college in Massachusetts has suspended three of its students after administrators became aware of a photo of them not wearing masks that had been taken off-campus.
The three UMass Amherst students, all of whom are women, were seen in a photo taken outside without masks at a large party, Fox News reported Saturday.
The college suspended the trio of freshmen for violating COVID-19 health rules after the photo was passed along to school administrators, reports said.
“There was a photo sent to the administration of these girls outside off-campus on a Saturday. This is why they lost a whole semester of their schooling,” one parent named Kristin told local media.
Initially, the students were only ejected from campus, but later their remote access was cut off as well, effectively amounting to a suspension.
In addition, reports said the three women also were not allowed to sit for final exams, meaning the entire school year has been a wash and they will have to reapply next year if they want to get back in.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said the mother of one of the students in an interview with WBZ-TV. Fees for one semester at the renowned institution is $16,000, and families will not be refunded that money as part of their students’ punishment.
“She was valedictorian and class president of her high school. She did everything right,” another parent, R.J., told the outlet.
The university issued a statement explaining the actions administrators took.
“Students received a number of public health messages this semester that emphasized the importance of following public health protocols and the consequences for not complying, and those messages were also shared on UMass social media channels,” it said.
Parents of the three students are angry about the decision to simply kick their daughters out of school without so much as a warning.
“One little thing happens and you’re out? Like not even like a don’t do it again, here’s some probation,” one parent named Teresa said.
“That negates this whole semester $16,000 of money and they have to reapply for next semester. But they missed housing registration,” Scott added.
Some of the students interviewed by the local outlet, however, had no issues with the rules or the punishment.
“Maybe a little harsh but like I understand it because you’re not supposed to be doing that,” one student said.
“The town of Amherst made it really clear they don’t want any big parties,” said another interviewed by the outlet.
Nevertheless, parents of the three suspended students also pointed out that videos and photos of the UMass Amhurst Hockey Team celebrating their national championship on campus featured some students, including players themselves, were seen not wearing masks, either.
“I just want the university administration to be equitable and fair,” R.J. stold the outlet.
The parents have filed suit against the university alleging unequal administration of COVID health rules.
The decision also appears to be at odds with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, both of which have recently changed mask guidelines for out-of-doors. Baker’s office, along with the CDC, note that fully vaccinated people can gather outside in small groups of others who are or are not vaccinated.
It’s not clear what the vaccination status of the three students is, or the status of the people they were seen with.