Duke University Imposes Stay-In-Place Order for Undergraduates, Cites Party-Linked COVID-19 Surge

March 15, 2021 Updated: March 15, 2021

Duke University on Saturday imposed a week long stay-at-home order for all of its undergraduate students, citing a surge in CCP virus cases on campus that it says is caused by students who attended recruitment parties.

Just days after the state reopened schools, three leaders of the Durham, North Carolina-based university issued a letter to students outlining the order that requires undergraduates to “stay-in-place” until at least 9 a.m. on March 21.

The letter warns that students who are “flagrant or repeat violators” may be punished with suspension or dismissal from the university.

The letter notes that in the space of seven days, more than 180 students tested positive for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus and a further 200 students were in quarantine because they may have been exposed to an infected person.

“This is by far the largest one-week number of positive tests and quarantines since the start of the pandemic,” wrote John Blackshear, the dean of students; Gary Bennett, the vice provost of undergraduate education; and Mary Pat McMahon, the vice provost of student affairs.

They noted that the recent outbreak was “principally driven by students attending recruitment parties for selective living groups.”

Duke University spokesman Michael Schoenfeld said in a statement that the recent COVID-19 cases “are almost all linked to unsanctioned fraternity recruitment events that took place off campus” and are “the direct result of individual behavior in violation of Duke’s requirements for in-person activity.”

According to Duke’s policy, student gatherings are limited to 10 people indoors or outdoors, unless specially approved by the Student Events Policy Committee.

“Those who are found responsible for organizing and hosting these events will be held accountable through the student conduct process,” he added.

“If this feels serious, it’s because it is,” the three leaders wrote in their March 13 letter. “This stay-in-place period is strongly recommended by our medical experts. This action is necessary to contain the rapidly escalating number of COVID cases among Duke undergraduates.”

Several restrictions are now in effect on campus for undergraduates, according to the letter, including shifting all classes online, with limited exceptions, prohibiting the use of laboratories, libraries, and common campus spaces, except for essential activities.

Undergraduates must remain in their hall room or apartment at all times except for essential activities related to food, health, or safety, the letter states. Students living off-campus are not permitted on campus, except to participate in surveillance testing, seek medical care or pick up grab-and-go food orders.

Further, for undergraduates returning from travel, two negative surveillance tests are now required.

“The restriction of student movement—coupled with a renewed dedication to following social distancing, masking, symptom monitoring and other public health guidelines—gives us the best path toward curtailing further spread,” the letter states.

“Violations of these requirements will be considered a violation of the Duke Compact and will be treated as such; flagrant and repeated violations will be grounds for suspension or withdrawal from Duke.”

“Our ability to complete the semester, commencement for our seniors, and the health and safety of our community, including your fellow undergraduate students, is hanging in the balance. Now more than ever we NEED you to come together as a Duke community to meet this challenge together. We know you can do it,” Blackshear, Bennett, and McMahon added.

The university said it would continue to monitor the situation and would provide updates on March 18. It also said that it is investigating the events and parties linked to the recent cases.