MINNEAPOLIS — This was going to be a difficult situation for all when it came to college campuses being back open. Today, Wisconsin governor Tony Evers extended the mask mandate in light of college campuses seeing a rise in COVID cases.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison announced that as of Monday, nearly 2,700 students and 49 employees have tested positive for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, on this side of the St. Croix river, a couple of short videos caught our attention. They captured what seemed like a mosh pit happening at the Superblock, an area on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus that is a cluster of freshman dorms.
The video showed hundreds of students, standing shoulder to shoulder. The Superblock looking that way was not a part of UMN's Maroon and Gold Sunrise Plan.
Freshman Ebba Ako said he saw the video.
"From what I saw, there was a massive mosh pit, and there was a guy who climbed the gazebo - he just belly flopped - and trusted everyone and he got caught luckily," Ako said.
Other angles of the incident help to corroborate that account, but the videos made it difficult to see if the students were at least wearing masks.
"If it wasn't pandemic season I'd be like this is kind of lit," Ako said. "It's kinda fun. But since it is pandemic season, you guys have got to watch out a bit and be a little more cautious. For the most part, we've been doing a good job. This only at night when we get restless."
Ako said he is in the camp that the restrictions put on by the university have been pretty tight.
"Here's the thing, if you restrict everybody so much, there's always going be people who want to rebel," he said. "It's a dictatorship and a tyranny and there's going to be a rebellion coming up because they don't like how everything is run."
Other freshmen say they'd appreciate more clarity when it came to the Sunrise plan, which at this phase includes a 9 p.m. curfew and restrictions on leaving campus grounds.
"I'm not super familiar with this area and so I've walked around a fair bit just trying to get my bearings," Freshman Avery Walz said. "I'm not sure if I'm breaking the rules by going to Target in Dinkytown because I thought that was on campus. I'm not a 100 percent sure. I haven't been told where I can and cant go."
"In theory it's a good plan," Freshman Ellie Bergfalk said. "I think it really encourages social distancing and stuff like that, but I think it's not as effective as they were planning it being. There's not as much supervision we thought there would be."
In response to the viral video UMN did release a statement saying that they are aware of the gathering of students that happened over the weekend. They said they dispersed the crowd with Housing staff and with the university's police department.
They also say they're reviewing videos of the event to follow up with students who may have been there.
When asked if Ako was resentful toward the other students who broke protocol, he said he gets both sides.
"There is a part of me that says you guys have to step it up more, but there's a side of me where I can see where they are coming from," he said. "What they're doing for the most part - I just want to get through these two weeks with all the rules happening right here."
You can read the full statement from the University of Minnesota here:
"We want to acknowledge that the majority of University of Minnesota students on the Twin Cities campus are following the Maroon and Gold Sunrise Plan. COVID-19 is serious, and it’s important that each member of our campus community takes steps (including staying home when sick, physical distancing, mask wearing and personal hygiene) to protect others.
The University is aware of a gathering of students that occurred outside of the Superblock residence halls over the weekend. Housing and Residential Life staff dispersed the crowd with help from the University of Minnesota Police Department. The University is reviewing any existing video of the event and will follow up with identified students, as appropriate.
But to be clear, in many respects this is not at all unique compared to the opening weekends of a fall semester. Just as we would with any students who do not meet University expectations, students may be referred to the Office for Community Standards to address any violations of the Student Conduct Code. Students living on campus who violate conduct rules, including this year, the terms of the Maroon and Gold Sunrise Plan, may also be referred to Housing & Residential Life staff.
Overall, the University takes an educational and development-focused approach to resolving violations of student conduct expectations. Our goal is to ensure students understand expected behaviors and why. We believe that by focusing on education and restorative justice, we can contribute to the education and development of our students, and ultimately generate more positive behavior than sanctions alone.
To assist other housing staff with the implementation of public health plans in residential facilities, all residence halls have staff on-site 24/7 to support sign-in and sign-out after the required “back home” time in the first three steps of the Maroon and Gold Sunrise Plan. If any members of the campus community or public observe behavior that is concerning, we encourage them to submit a report here."