UD students hosting 75-person party first to be cited under Newark's new gatherings ordinance


Estaban Parra

Three University of Delaware students hosting a large party early Monday became the first to be cited for violating Newark's emergency ordinance restricting the size of private gatherings.

The week-old ordinance is an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus by restricting private gatherings to 12 people indoors and 20 people outdoors. Newark Police said about 75 people were at the house party on Annabelle Street before fleeing the area when officers arrived. 

In voting for the emergency restrictions, Newark City Council cited worries over the virus spreading from large gatherings of students from the university, which had the state's first confirmed COVID-19 in March. 

"We've seen what can happen at large college parties across the country," Newark Mayor Jerry Clifton said. "I'm grateful to members of city council who saw the need to protect the community and acted quickly to limit large social gatherings.

"Preventing outbreaks on campus will allow UD to remain open and help Newark's economy to rebound. It's my hope that the recent citations serve as a deterrent and reminder of how serious this issue is. To effectively mitigate this virus, we must all be willing to make sacrifices."

As students return to college campuses across the nation, several schools have seen coronavirus infections spike, prompting reactive restrictions and, in some cases, campus shutdowns, according to USA Today. 

It took the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill one week to switch to online classes after reopening in person. The turnaround came after several

COVID-19 outbreak clusters were found after the school's Aug. 10 opening. 

The University of Notre Dame, one week into its fall semester, also shifted to online classes for two weeks after growing numbers of coronavirus infections. 

Wanting to prevent the spread of the virus and schools closing, USA Today reported that several college administrators have resorted to stricter rules that sometimes call for the suspension of students. 

Syracuse University officials suspended 23 freshmen for gathering on school grounds and said in a statement that students "selfishly jeopardized the very thing so many of you claim to want from Syracuse University – that is, a chance at a residential collegiate experience. … Be adults. Think of someone other than yourself."

UD, which supports Newark's private gatherings ordinance, said students who are cited for breaking it will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct where they could face suspension or expulsion.

"Any student found responsible for violating University policies, including attending or hosting large gatherings, will receive conduct sanctions potentially leading to suspension or expulsion," said Andrea Boyle, director of external relations for the school.

She added the students who were cited by police on Monday have been referred to that office. The school was trying to get the names of others who were present at the party.  

"Not necessarily for disciplinary purposes, but to remind them about health and safety expectations," Boyle said. 

About 1,200 students returned to campus last week. UD says about 90% of their classes this semester will be remote. Those that are in-person include hard sciences with labs and some art classes.

According to Newark Police Lt. Andrew Rubin, officers were dispatched to Annabelle Street about 12:45 a.m. for a complaint of loud noises. 

Arriving officers, who could hear music and people in the yard, were met by three of the home's residents. 

"It took a little bit of time for those people to answer the door, but they eventually were able to make contact," Rubin said. "That's when they were able to see into the backyard and saw what they counted approximately 75 people just partying."

After police heard someone shout "cops," Rubin said the revelers began to scatter. 

In addition to violating the emergency ordinance, which carries a fine of up to $500 and 20 hours of community service on the first offense, the three hosts were also cited with a loud noise violation. 

"This is the first citation issued under the latest ordinance," Rubin said.

While the department received several complaints of loud noise and large gatherings over the weekend, this was the first one in which police actually saw a violation. 

The ordinance allows police to charge anyone present at an illegal gathering, but Rubin said the few officers present were not able to get people fleeing the party. 

"But we will take action when manpower allows for the other people there," he said. 

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