The University of Connecticut alongside the resident state troopers office are cracking down on off-campus party goers and handing out stern reminders to students who ignore proper COVID-19 safety measures.
Sergeant Keith Timme, a resident state trooper, said he had been meeting with several single-family rental property tenants in order to explain the expectations set forth by the university, advising renters not to host parties because tenants might not know who could spread the virus.
“Troopers from the Mansfield Resident Troopers Office have been conducting numerous patrols of the Town of Mansfield since the return of the UConn students to the off-campus community,” Timme said. “These patrols have been focused on identifying significant outdoor/indoor gatherings.”
Timme said that since August, the Mansfield Resident State Troopers Office has had to refer several students to UConn Community Standards for incidents surrounding student behavior and off campus parties with no precautions taken in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Timme said they focused on the enforcement of Connecticut General Statutes, Town of Mansfield ordinance violations and violations to the latest version of the Governor’s executive orders. Timme said the main objective with these patrols was to ensure compliance of guidelines set forth by the CDC regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
John Armstrong, director of the Office of Off-Campus and Commuter Student Services, said that over the summer the office had been working closely with landlords and property managers to prepare for the unusual semester. He said that UConn, along with the Mansfield Resident State Troopers Office, had three separate meetings with landlords and property managers in order to come up with plans to mitigate COVID-19 cases in off campus complexes.
“Our team has been looking at the best way to communicate with students,” Armstrong said. “Our goal was to keep them as informed as possible.”
Armstrong also said that the office had created information on what it means to host safe social gatherings and that all of the recommendations were based on the guidelines proposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His team created two initiatives in order to keep students informed of safe practices, with one on hosting off campus gatherings and another on roommate talking points.
“One area where we started was on roommate talking points,” Armstrong said. “What it does is encourage students living off campus to work as a team or unit.”
Armstrong said the initial concern over the summer was seeing an increase in large student gatherings when the campus reopened. Instead, he and his team are seeing COVID-19 cases cropping up out of smaller gatherings. They were able to find this out through contact tracing which, according to the CDC website, is a process of identifying individuals within close contact of an infected individual.
Deputy Chief Fournier said that the safety of students is the top priority of the UConn Police Department.
“We know this is a challenging time for everyone, and have implemented some additional strategies to promote safety,” Fournier said. “The UConn Police Department is responding to safety concerns as we become aware of them through direct notification or through our normal patrols.”
Fournier also said that UCPD has allocated additional staffing for education on masks and gathering size compliance.
“We know this is a challenging time for everyone, and have implemented some additional strategies to promote safety,”
UCPD also makes referrals to Community Standards for non-compliance if they find that someone is violating a Manfield ordinance. Fournier said that UCPD, Residential Life and other partners are trying to curb large gatherings to the best of their ability and with any available tool.
“Additionally, officers are reaching out to community members when proper safety guidelines are observed and giving out T-shirts and coupons for Dairy Bar ice cream. Our main goal is to resolve any issues through education and encouragement,” he said.
Despite the challenges faced by authorities in trying to prevent outbreaks, Armstrong said he is confident the student body will look out for each other. But he stresses that students must always take proper precautions when inviting guests over to their rental.[Text Wrapping Break]
“We as a university and my office as a department have made every effort towards the safety of our students,” Armstrong said. “I think it’s human nature to want to get together in spaces that are not virtual. But students must do so safely.”
Armstrong said that UConn disseminates initiatives through the email newsletter as well as the UConn Brand Standards site. He said that the office had also sent them out in a variety of other forms such as social media, through property managers and going door to door.