Board of trustees illustration

(Eleanor Klock/Daily Emerald)

The University of Oregon Board of Trustees passed a resolution that changes the university’s student conduct code which will expand its power to punish students’ behavior off campus. 

The resolution, which was never proposed to the UO senate, would widen those powers, allowing UO to punish the behavior of students if it “causes substantial disruption to the university community or any of its members.” Consequences can include educational sanctions, disciplinary probation or suspension depending on the egregiousness of the behavior.

Currently, the student conduct code applies to all activities on campus or during any university sponsored activity that breaks the law. Now, anything that disrupts the community can be punished by university.

This motion comes after large parties near campus went viral on social media and received criticism from the community. 

On May 1, the Eugene Police Department responded to a complaint of a loud party on 15th Avenue and Mill Street around 10:30 pm, according to an EPD news release. The residents of the house failed to clear the party after officers told them to do so. In fact, more people arrived. 

After officers told the crowd over a loudspeaker to disperse, around 500 to 600 people emptied onto the streets. The crowd was mostly hostile toward the officers, according to the news release, shouting profanities at them. Police cited two of the house’s residents for prohibited noise.

Photos captured of another party on the same day went viral on social media and drew condemnation from students, faculty and community members.

The university wrote in a statement released following the parties that it was “disappointed” to see the photo and that “this behavior is not representative of the majority of UO students, who we have seen work diligently to follow health guidelines.”

With Oregon currently at a high COVID-19 risk level, large gatherings like these parties are not advised, as current OHA guidelines only allow eight people in an outdoor gathering. 

Regarding noise complaints and mask-wearing, EPD spokesperson Melinda McLaughlin said that the department prefers to enforce guidelines without issuing citations.

“The goal would be to attempt to gain compliance without taking enforcement action. Usually this is effective,” McLaughlin said in an email. “If that is not effective, a citation can be issued with permission from a supervisor for the masks, or as the very last resort, taking a person into custody.”

EPD designates “party patrols,” which are assisted by the University of Oregon Police Department. The patrols monitor unruly gatherings with a zero-tolerance policy for the hosts of the party, meaning that every party reported is broken up rather than being given a warning to quiet down. If officers have to respond to another complaint at the same address within a few weeks, the hosts will automatically be given a citation.

While enforcement for these off-campus parties lies within EPD’s jurisdiction — and not UOPD’s — the university currently has some power when it comes to disciplining students. 

“The university is aware of and concerned about reports of unruly and potentially unsafe behavior at off-campus parties,” UO spokesperson Saul Hubbard said in a statement. “The Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards continues to review reports it receives related to students who might not be complying with COVID-19 protocols, and it will take any necessary appropriate actions.”

According to the UO COVID-19 website, students — whether off or on campus — are subject to the student conduct code when they violate state law and university policy. If EPD identifies party hosts as UO students, they are automatically referred to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards. 

Current UO COVID-19 policy requires masks indoors, but face coverings are optional for people alone or in small groups outdoors on campus.