17 St. Olaf students suspended after attending party that led to possible COVID-19 exposure

The president of St. Olaf College is sharing stern words with the student body after an off-campus party led to possible COVID-19 exposure. Seventeen students who attended the party are suspended for the fall semester, according to an email sent to students Thursday.

"This is the kind of reckless behavior that will put an end to our in-person semester and it must stop," wrote St. Olaf College President David Anderson.

Students began arriving on campus on August 15 and classes began Thursday. Since the beginning of August, eight students have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Anderson.

"The number of positive cases is manageable, but we are deeply concerned about the fact there are also 50 students who have to quarantine because of a lack of physical distancing," wrote Anderson.

Anderson explained this is in part due to an off-campus party held last week before the many of the affected students moved into campus housing. Anderson said at least one student who attended the party had COVID-19 and exposed several others, who then exposed others who weren't at the party, such as roommates.

"Every single one of us has a responsibility to check the behavior of those around us," wrote Anderson. "If you see someone not adhering to the Community Standards, remind them that this behavior endangers everyone and could jeopardize our ability to complete a full semester in person."

The campus is taking a phased approach to reopening. In its current phase, students are required to stay in their rooms, leaving only to use the bathroom or to eat at an assigned time. Classes will be online until the campus quarantine ends on September 2. In-person or hybrid classes will begin on September 3.

About 2,700 students returned to campus for the fall semester, according to a St. Olaf spokesperson.