NYU students sue to reverse coronavirus discipline
Three New York University students are suing the school following the university’s decision to suspend them from classes for allegedly violating coronavirus restrictions.
Marc Santonocito, Ashley Storino and Elnaz Pourasgari each filed individual suits against NYU late last month over NYU’s August decision to suspend the three for the fall semester, citing their participation in “a large gathering at an off-campus location without proper use of masks and social distancing.”
All three lawsuits allege the university’s decision was “fundamentally unfair, arbitrary and capricious, and constitutes an abuse of discretion.”
The suits were filed separately, but the three are represented by the same law firm, and court documents show that the university accused them of violations at the same off-campus parties, using photos posted to social media.
All three students claim that they followed state and local guidelines for Covid-19 prevention during two small gatherings at off-campus apartments. The three all say they are track athletes, and formed a “social bubble” of other track athletes and their respective roommates.
Santonocito’s suit maintains that his social bubble “ran together in New York City with masks on, talked, and generally hung out between their respective off-campus residences”
The lawsuits argue that since the social gatherings in question took place off campus and during summer break, they violated none of NYU’s stated policies at the time. The lawsuits dispute the university’s characterization of the gatherings as “large” and claim that the students all followed state guidelines regarding social distancing and mask use.
The three are asking that NYU remove the disciplinary suspension from their records and allow them to return to fall semester classes, which are being held online. An interim stay granted late last month allowed the three to return to virtual classes while the suit is contested.
John Beckman, an NYU spokesman, said Friday that he hopes the court will uphold the suspensions as a tool the school can use in the service of public health.
“NYU’s plan to safeguard the well-being of the University community is not based on sanctioning students; however, we are serious about enforcing our safety rules among that small number of students determined to flout them,” Beckman said.
“As the photos demonstrate, this is a case involving students partying without masks, without physical distancing, and in the apparent presence of alcohol in defiance of NYU’s rules, not to mention New York State government orders,” Beckman said. “This is precisely the combination that has been shown to spread Covid-19 at other colleges. The coronavirus doesn’t care whether your unsafe, rule-defying activity takes place on campus or off, and our concerns for the health of our community don’t stop at the doorstep of our facilities.”