Numerous Irish universities have threatened an array of penalties including fines, suspensions, and expulsions for students found breaching COVID-19 public health guidelines. These penalties come following fears of house parties and other prohibited large student gatherings both on and off university campuses.

Students in University College Cork (UCC) have been warned that any students found organising or attending parties in breach of government COVID-19 guidelines could be expelled, according to an email circulated at the weekend.

Interim President of UCC, Professor John O’Halloran, cautioned that “students found to be organising, hosting or attending gatherings which are in breach of guidelines will be subject to sanction up to and including expulsion from the University”, pleading for students to consider the “seriousness of the threat posed by COVID-19”.

The university has also appealed to the UCC Students’ Union to cancel its Virtual Freshers Week, saying it “cannot support its operation”. Despite many of the Freshers Week events being held online, Professor O’Halloran claims that the university is concerned that the online events “will lead to gatherings at a time when our country needs us to minimise our contacts”.

A spokesperson for UCC told the Irish Times that these warnings apply not only to students on campus or university residences, but also to students living off campus and those engaged in placements.

UCC is not the only Irish university to threaten expulsion for students found to be in breach of COVID-19 guidelines. 

Students at NUI Galway (NUIG) have been told that the university “won’t hesitate in dealing with any breaches of public health guidelines in line with our student code of conduct”, with students facing penalties “up to and including expulsion”.

Similarly, the University of Limerick (UL) has forewarned students that those found breaching guidelines may face fines, suspensions, or expulsions, following a number of house parties hosted in the last few weeks.

Meanwhile, in UCD, guests and gatherings are currently forbidden in all residences, as the university’s overnight guest policy is suspended for the foreseeable future. Social spaces, gyms and games rooms across all university residences are also closed until further notice. 

UCD has not yet announced any blanket penalties for students failing to adhere to guidelines in campus residences or college buildings; however, the university has said it will deal with breaches on a case-by-case basis.

The College Tribune contacted several UCD departments for clarification regarding the consequences for UCD students found breaching public health guidelines, but has not received anything by the time of publishing.

Nessa Collins – Assistant News Editor