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Off-Campus Visitors on College Campuses During COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many colleges and universities that have reopened for in-person education have put policies in place to limit or restrict visitors. Universities that have reopened for limited in-person work and education have also enacted policies that are designed to restrict visitors on campus. These policies, at various colleges and universities that have reopened to varying degrees, can affect students who are living on campus. Indeed, many students who are living on-campus have agreed to abide by any college or university COVID-19 policies as a condition of their return to campus. In many cases, a violation of the COVID-19 off-campus visitor policy may be a violation of an agreement between the student and the institution, or a code of conduct violation. In cases where a student welcomes a visitor from off campus in violation of such a policy, the student ultimately could face disciplinary action.

If you are facing disciplinary action at your college or university as a result of a visitor policy violation, or if your child is a college student in this situation, it is important to seek advice from a national university code of conduct lawyer.

College and University Policies on Off-Campus Visitors

In terms of permitting off-campus visitors on to university and college campuses during the COVID-19 pandemic, institutions have varying responses. Some are prohibiting off-campus visitors aside from very limited circumstances, others have special requirements that visitors must comply with in order to enter campus facilities, and some colleges and universities are merely requiring off-campus visitors to adhere to the same COVID-19 safety guidelines as students, faculty, and staff who are on campus. To demonstrate the ranging policies, we will provide you with some specific examples from colleges and universities across the country.

New York University (NYU), for example, has a stringent off-campus visitor policy. At NYU, all non-essential visits are prohibited “until further notice,” according to the university’s visitor and vendor guidelines. This policy applies to vendors as well as to student visitors, and to many other parties who might be visiting the NYU campus. NYU does have exceptions to this rule, and it has developed a process to allow certain persons to visit campus for specific purposes.

The NYU visitor and vendor guidelines identify the following people as those who might seek an exception: “a guest lecturer of an in-person course, a research specialist, an administrative subject matter expert, or a technician.” In order to be permitted into campus by exception, NYU visitors must complete a form at least 10 business days prior to the planned visit. The guidelines specifically clarify that family members and friends of students “will not be permitted to enter NYU buildings” and “will be met at the entrance of buildings and visit . . . at an off-campus location.” Many other colleges and universities have similar policies. For example, Sacred Heart University’s policy is that any guests “from outside of the university residential system are prohibited,” and students who violate the guest policy will be separated from the university.

Some colleges and universities are permitting some off-campus visitors, provided they adhere to COVID-19 safety rules and completed visitor health screening forms. For instance, the policy at SUNY-Albany is that students living on campus can permit off-campus guests (i.e., guests who do not reside in on-campus housing) in lounge areas, socializing tents, and on campus grounds more generally. Any guest must complete a SUNY Visitor Health Screening form the day of the planned visit, and the guest must be able to answer all of the questions on that form in the negative. However, guests are prohibited in student residence halls, rooms, suites, and apartments. Guests are also prohibited during overnight hours. SUNY-Albany makes clear that any student who violates the guest regulations will be in violation of the code of conduct and can face sanctions that may include a removal from their on-campus residence.

Other colleges and universities have general off-campus visitor policies, but those policies are not being enforced in the ways described above. For example, the Texas A&M University reopening plan says that “students living in the residence halls will be prohibited from day or overnight visitors in their rooms as much as is practicable.” Somewhat similarly, Montana State University reported that it has a restricted guest policy in place, but that policy still permits guests in residence halls. Indeed, students are permitted to have up to two guests in their residence hall buildings, but the number of guests outside the building is not restricted. Any guests at Montana State University are required to wear a mask inside residence halls.

Consequences for Hosting Off-Campus Visitors in Violation of Policies or Codes of Conduct

Students who violate their university or college policies or codes of conduct concerning off-campus visitors can face consequences. Depending upon the particular college or university, and the specific sanctions outlined in the policy or code of conduct, students may face consequences that range from temporary removal from their residence unit to long-term or permanent removal from the college or university.

In some cases, the college or university policy might not have been clear, and the student may be able to argue that they did not commit a violation. In other situations, a student might be able to show that they have not actually violated the policy. No matter what type of policy or code of conduct you are facing, it is critical to seek advice from a national code of conduct attorney who can help to determine options for students in these situations.

Contact the National Code of Conduct Attorneys at Nesenoff & Miltenberg, LLP

At Nesenoff & Miltenberg, LLP, we have years of experience representing students from across the country in code of conduct and similar cases. While colleges and universities are responding to COVID-19 risks in a variety of ways, our national code of conduct lawyers can assess the facts of your case and can use their experience handling other types of code of conduct cases to help determine what your options might be. If you have questions about off-campus college visitor policies during COVID-19, or if you need help with a code of conduct violation resulting from hosting an off-campus visitor, an attorney at our firm can talk with you about your case. Contact Nesenoff & Miltenberg, LLP for more information about the services we provide to students and their families.