Three UMass Amherst honor students have been kicked out of school because they were seen in a photo without masks when they were off-campus and outside. The freshmen students will reportedly lose their course credits and tuition over the maskless photo that was posted on social media. The students' parents are ready to fight the university's decision.
The three female students posed for a photo while at an off-campus party that was held outside in March. The photo posted to Instagram were reportedly sent to UMass Amherst officials, who then suspended the three students.
"There was a photo sent to the administration of these girls outside off-campus on a Saturday," Kristin, a mother of one of the suspended students, said. "This is why they lost a whole semester of their schooling."
RJ, the father of another suspended student, said his daughter "did everything right," adding, "She was valedictorian and class president of her high school."
The students were immediately moved out of on-campus housing and forced to return home to attend remote classes while they appealed their case, according to WCVB-TV. The parents said the three students lost their appeals.
The students were kicked out of their current distance-learning courses and were prohibited from taking their finals, which has major academic and financial ramifications for the families. The students were forced to forfeit the entire semester and $16,000 tuition that was already paid. The parents said the school would not refund the tuition.
"That negates this whole semester $16,000 of money and they have to reapply for next semester," a parent named Scott stated. "But they missed housing registration."
"These beautiful young ladies who are honors students have had a full academic year stripped away and their paths broken of their higher education for alleged COVID violations," one of the parents, who don't wish to give their last names in fear that it could hurt their daughters' chances of getting accepted to a new school, said.
"So for this to happen it's been devastating," Kristin said.
"One little thing happens and you're out? Like not even like a don't do it again, here's some probation," another parent named Teresa said, adding that the situation is "heartbreaking."
UMass Amherst did not provide a specific statement about the three students, but issued a statement.
"Students received a number of public health messages this semester that emphasized the importance of following public health protocols and the consequences for not complying, and those messages were also shared on UMass social media channels," the school said.
"Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the public health and safety of the UMass Amherst community has been the university's foremost priority," the university said. "Expectations regarding students' responsibility to follow public health protocols, and the consequences for failing to do so, were clearly communicated to students before and throughout the spring semester, and students were updated regularly as conditions changed."
"When positive COVID-19 cases surged within the UMass community in February 2021, the university, in consultation with the state Department of Public Health, promptly imposed severe restrictions on campus activities, including the suspension of in-person classes and a prohibition on student social gatherings," the school continued. "It was made clear to students that those who failed to comply would be subject to discipline, including suspension.
"The university said a February 7 campus-wide message directed all students, whether residing in campus residence halls or in off-campus housing in the surrounding area, were directed to stay home, except to get meals, undergo twice-weekly COVID testing, or to attend medical appointments," the statement read.
However, the parents argue that the suspension is entirely unfair, considering there is evidence that the UMass Amherst hockey team were also maskless, but suffered no repercussions from the school. There is a video of UMass Amherst students and members of the hockey team celebrating their national championship on campus in April; many are seen without face coverings.
"I just want the university administration to be equitable and fair," RJ declared.
The families plan to fight the university's decision. They have hired a lawyer and plan to file a lawsuit.
Wild story. Three UMass-Amherst students were sent packing- losing credits and tuition- for taking a picture outd… https://t.co/oU8e1iHASX— David Wade (@David Wade) 1620424392.0