Some colleges reprimanding students for off-campus parties and gatherings, but it's an unlikely course at UND

And in the region, universities are requiring masks on campus or, in at least one case, enacting a curfew.

UND president Andrew Armacost, right, gives Grand Forks mayor Brandon Bochenski a Fighting Hawks branded mask at Friday's COVID-19 mass testing event at the High Performance Center. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

As many colleges across the country are reprimanding students for partying off campus without masks, UND President Andrew Armacost said that isn’t an option at UND.

Last month, Purdue University in Indiana suspended 36 for attending an off-campus party, which violated the college's social distancing rules. Purdue said students who violate the requirements of its COVID protection plan may be disciplined.

UND’s code of conduct, however, doesn’t allow for students to be punished for attending off-campus parties.

“There are limits on what we can and cannot do when students make decisions off campus,” Armacost said.

Though students can be disciplined for committing crimes off campus, there are no rules that limit the amount of people who can be gathered or that require face masks while not on campus.


“Not wearing a face mask is not a crime,” Armacost said.

Grand Forks County was one of eight counties in North Dakota that moved up to the moderate, or yellow, risk level on Thursday, Sept. 3. Other counties to do so are Barnes, Benson, Burleigh, McLean, Morton, Stark and Williams.

Armacost said the university’s restrictions, including wearing a mask on campus and restrictions on class sizes, have been consistent with what the state expects in counties at the yellow level.

As of 9:30 a.m. Friday, UND's dashboard showed 183 active, self-reported coronavirus cases. The university lists 569 individuals in quarantine or isolation.

Across the country and the region, cities and colleges have been grappling with how to deal with COVID restrictions on and off campus.

Though Grand Forks does not have a mask mandate, Mayor Brandon Bochenski last week signed an order that requires bars in the city to close by 11 p.m. That rule will be in place for the foreseeable future.

"It seems like a prudent step to essentially de-densify (spaces) and to really focus on how do you prevent these large gatherings from becoming super spreader events,” Armacost said Friday, Sept. 4.

The City Council has been discussing what a mask mandate might mean for the city of Grand Forks but council members have been mixed on moving an ordinance forward until more education can be done. Earlier this week, following Monday’s council meeting, Armacost said there’s a different set of rules on and off campus. When asked directly, Armacost has consistently stopped short of saying he would prefer a citywide mask mandate.


“Although the decision about a citywide mandate rests in the hands of elected officials, what I would like is a consistent policy that allows us to consistently have expectations for our students, faculty and staff,” Armacost said Tuesday, Sept. 1.

What other cities are doing

In Duluth, Minn., home of the University of Minnesota-Duluth, the Duluth City Council voted in July to require the use of masks in most indoor public places. The state of Minnesota followed up a few days later with its own mask mandate. In-person classes have yet to start at the campus after the university’s board of regents voted last month to delay the start of in-person classes by two weeks.

The University of Minnesota-Crookston has a public health curfew that requires students to be back on campus by 9 each night. It's part of an effort to limit house parties and gathering in bars. The curfew is essentially on the honor system, UMC Chancellor Mary Holz-Clause told the Herald last month.

Asked if that would be something UND would consider for its students, Armacost said it’s a topic university leaders haven’t collectively discussed. A curfew would likely be tough to enforce and 75% of students live off campus anyway.

“It would be difficult if not impossible to enforce,” he said.

Armacost said the university essentially already relies on the honor system for students to follow COVID-19 protocols off campus.

In Brookings, S.D., home of South Dakota State University, the City Council is moving forward on steps to implement a mask mandate in the city. The council had considered additional proposals, including limiting the hours alcohol can be sold and effectively banning house parties, but those proposals were dropped after hundreds of people turned up in objection, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported.

Like at UND, masks are required on the South Dakota State campus. If a proposal passes on the next reading, masks will be required around the city at all public spaces and businesses in Brookings.


South Dakota State’s COVID-19 dashboard showed 77 active, self-reported cases as of Friday morning.

At the University of South Dakota, bars in Vermillion came together last weekend to reduce nighttime hours. Bars there closed at 10 p.m. with the hopes of limiting large crowds.

Masks are required on campus at USD. Though the city of Vermillion does not have a mask requirement, it does have a “masks expected” ordinance that it adopted on Aug. 11. The ordinance requires businesses to have signage at building entrances stating that face coverings are expected, according to the city website.

USD has 230 active, self-reported cases as of Friday morning, according to the university’s dashboard. Also, 628 individuals are either in quarantine or isolation.

Sydney Mook has been the managing editor at the Herald since April 2021. In her role she edits and assigns stories and helps reporters develop their work for readers.

Mook has been with the Herald since May 2018 and was first hired as the Herald's higher education reporter where she covered UND and other happenings in state higher education. She was later promoted to community editor in 2019.

For story pitches contact her at or call her at 701-780-1134.
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