University College Cork (UCC) has confirmed today that, following an investigation, it has temporarily suspended 11 students for allegedly breaching coronavirus public health guidelines. 

Due to the suspected infringement of the UCC Student Rules, the students have been prohibited from accessing all University premises – including access to classes scheduled to take place on-campus – until further notice.

The suspensions come following online Freshers Week events organised by the UCC Students’ Union. The University itself heavily advised against these events taking place and urged the SU to cancel all Freshers Week activities, or defer them until it is safer for students to congregate. Despite their virtual nature, the University held fears of students attending large gatherings or house parties to participate in the online events, such as virtual DJ sets, “at a time when our country needs us to minimise our contacts”.

In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, UCC acknowledged that whilst the majority of students have been following guidelines as advised, a number of students have been complained about to the university Campus Watch for allegedly breaching COVID-19 regulations.

Interim President of UCC Professor John O’Halloran argues in a letter to the suspended students that the sanctions were “necessary in the circumstances to protect the University community”.

The suspended students have been told that they remain entitled to continue their classes online. Under government regulations announced last week, UCC has moved almost fully to online delivery of classes for at least two weeks. 

The suspensions are temporary; pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing by the Student Discipline Committee.

UCC announced only this week that students face penalties ranging from fines up to and including expulsions should students be found breaching COVID-19 restrictions, whether breached on university premises or not. Professor O’Halloran issued a warning to students regarding unlawful gatherings: “[S]tudents 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 where warranted.”

Nessa Collins – Assistant News Editor