AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas will not allow students to hold parties on or off campus during the fall semester as the city continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

In an email sent to students Friday afternoon, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly encouraged students to follow the city of Austin's guidance to stay home and the state's orders to wear a mask in public. Parties, she added, will not be permitted.

"While the orders and guidelines continue to evolve, parties (whether on or off campus) put peoples' health and safety at risk and raise anxiety levels," she said in the email.

The fall semester begins Aug. 26, with students taking some in-person and some online classes. It's not clear how the university expects to enforce the no party rule in off-campus settings, but the city of Austin has prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people. According to UT's student conduct rules, those who deliberately engage in behavior that threatens the health and safety of students, faculty, staff and visitors will be subject to disciplinary action.

In recent weeks, some have expressed concerns about the behavior of students in sororities and fraternities. Sara Kennedy, a spokeswoman with the Office of the Dean of Students, said fraternities and sororities are private, off-campus organizations, and not under the purview of the university.

More than 6,000 UT students are members of one of the school's 63 sororities or fraternities, according to the Office of the Dean of Students. Kennedy said UT staff have been meeting regularly with members of the chapters to talk through concerns and help them understand the nuances of the situation. Kennedy was not able to say how many sororities or fraternities would reopen for residency this fall. Recruitment of young women to the 14 sororities in UT's Panhellenic Council is entirely virtual this year, Kennedy added.

In the email to students Friday, Reagins-Lilly also said there would be punishments for those who don't abide by the mandatory mask rule or go out of their way to infect others.

"We know you know this, but do not put others at risk of contracting the virus by coughing on, spitting on, sneezing on, and/or purposely invading the personal space of others," she wrote. "Sanctions (including suspension) will be assessed based on the severity of the incident."

Students and other university members will also be able to report a COVID-19 violation to the university.

"I am optimistic and looking forward to a great semester built on mutual trust and respect," Reagins-Lilly wrote. "I know we can do this — prove me right! I am counting on YOU!"


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