UW-La Crosse students who host parties could be suspended without a tuition refund

Chancellor Joe Gow says some students are facing a degree of disciplinary action

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Despite no traditional Oktoberfest celebrations this past weekend, parties took place all over La Crosse.

College students packed houses and bars in large groups. Many of them were not social distancing or wearing masks.

On Labor Day, UW-La Crosse sent all students an email with an ultimatum: don’t host parties.

In the email, it says students who host a party on or off-campus will lead to disciplinary action, and even suspension without a tuition refund.

The email was sent out to students before the shelter-in-place order took place.

But it appears the order didn’t stop some students from doing it anyway.

After an outbreak of coronavirus cases ordered UWL students to shelter-in-place, students were able to start returning to campus after an 18-day shut down.

“I’m excited for it to be hopefully going back to somewhat normal,” sophomore Lilli Plagge said.

Plagge couldn’t do much during her quarantine in Eagle Hall.

“My roommates and I, we survived off “Criminal Minds” and microwaved popcorn,” Lilli said. “It wasn’t very exciting.”

More importantly, she hunkered down and didn’t go to parties or large gatherings.

“Just everyone doing their part would be really helpful,” Lilli said.

But others are not as careful, and instead, are hosting parties with no masks or social distancing.

“They seem to believe, ‘well this virus isn’t gonna impact me very dramatically, and so, I don’t really care if I get it or not,'” UWL Chancellor Joe Gow said.

And those decisions have already gotten a few kids in trouble.

“There are some students who are in the disciplinary process,” Gow said.

Gow says one student was busted over Oktoberfest weekend in their dorm for hosting a gathering.

“There was somebody who was caught with alcohol and marijuana in their room,” Gow said. “And they obviously are being asked to leave.”

Gow says it’s harder for students off-campus to get in trouble because the university doesn’t have a police presence beyond campus boundaries.

“Sometimes, we don’t hear about parties until a few days later,” Gow said. “And so then, it’s very hard to really do anything impactful at that point.”

All the university can do is educate their students to be safe.

“But ultimately, it’s very hard to force people to do things,” Gow said.

Those who don’t listen frustrate Lilli a little bit, too.

“It kinda sounds like a broken record after a while,” Lilli said.

But she isn’t all that surprised with what’s happened in just a month’s time.

“It’s kinda bound to happen,” Lilli said. “And they knew what the consequences could be, so, yeah.”

Gow says he thinks another spike in cases is coming because of the number of parties held off-campus.

Last week, UWL tested all 1,500 students in the dorms and about five students tested positive each day.

This week, all students coming back to the residence halls will get tested as well.

About 300 kids are returning to campus each day until classes resume face-to-face next Monday, Oct. 5.

Gow says it’s possible there could be another shelter in place if an outbreak gets serious enough, but right now they’re taking it week by week.