Syracuse University is just five days away from the start of the new semester, but first-year students are already flouting social distancing rules.

A couple of videos shared on social media Wednesday night showed dozens of students together on the SU Quad without masks and not staying apart.

The university released a statement Thursday morning to students.

"Last night, a large group of first-year students selfishly jeopardized the very thing that so many of you claim to want from Syracuse University — that is, a chance at a residential college experience. I say this because the students who gathered on the Quad last night may have done damage enough to shut down campus, including residence halls and in-person learning, before the academic semester even begins," said Vice Chancellor J. Michael Haynie.

According to a statement released by the university Thursday evening, the gathering began as a small group of students in the Quad around 9:45 p.m. As the night went on, more and more students arrived, with a group that had grown considerably by 10:19 p.m., when campus safety officers were dispatched to the scene.

The Quad was cleared just after 10:30 p.m.

Bailey Davis is a sophomore at Syracuse University.

From Chicago, Bailey was required to quarantine when she arrived in the state. 

"Basically I saw the video, it was kind of blurry. It was a huge body of kids on the quad with a tent or two. I hear music, I don't see any masks, and I'm like this isn't what I signed up for," said Davis.

Citing the university's "Stay Safe Pledge" that all students had to sign outlining SU's rules for mitigating the coronavirus pandemic, Haynie blasted the "selfish" students who he said knew it was wrong to gather and who "knowingly ingnored" state law and university policy.

"Even more selfish and unsettling is how the actions of those students willfully undercut the efforts of those who have worked tirelessly over the summer to set the conditions for the continuation of residential learning," Haynie said. "Even more selfish and unsettling is how the actions of those students may prevent our seniors from claiming their final year of college on our residential campus. Even more selfish and unsettling is how the actions of those students could force a situation where some of their classmates may have to vacate the most safe and stable and supportive living situation they have ever known."

The university's Department of Public Safety has begun an investigation, and Haynie said students who can be identified would face the student conduct process.

"We have one shot to make this happen. The world is watching, and they expect you to fail," Haynie said in the letter to students. "Prove them wrong. Be better. Be adults. Think of someone other than yourself. And also, do not test the resolve of this university to take swift action to prioritize the health and well-being of our campus and Central New York community."

A statement released Thursday night by SU Department of Public Safety Chief Bobby Maldonado and Dean of Students Marianne Thomson revealed that, so far, 23 students have been issued interim suspensions for attending the gathering, thereby violating the university's Student Code of Conduct and the Stay Safe Pledge. 

The statement said, in part, "We assure you: anyone we are able to identify as attending that gathering will be held responsible. Our investigation is ongoing and includes reviewing security camera footage, interviewing witnesses and processing a number of tips we are receiving with information on who was in attendance. We will continue to investigate, and individuals we are able to identify as participants will be referred to the student conduct process."

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