Fleming College intends to impose the “harshest possible sanctions” — up to and including suspension or expulsion — on the students who were involved in the social gatherings at Severn Court Student Residence on February 20 that has resulted in the largest-ever COVID-19 outbreak in the Peterborough area.
The college’s president Maureen Adamson made the statement in a letter sent to all college staff and students on Wednesday (March 3).
“To the students who were part of the unauthorized gatherings, we are extremely disappointed in your actions,” Adamson writes. “Your behaviours are inconsistent with our values and with our expectations of all our students, regardless of the fact that these actions took place in an off-campus setting.”
As of Tuesday (March 2), 34 people — including 29 Fleming College students and five Trent University students — have tested positive for COVID-19 as a result of social gatherings at Severn Court Student Residence, which is privately owned and operated and not affiliated with Fleming College. Around 200 students live at the six-building housing complex.
The outbreak has resulted in Fleming College cancelling all in-person classes and activities at the Sutherland Campus until Monday, March 15th, affecting around 700 students.
“For those students who are proven to have been involved in the gatherings of February 20 that led to the outbreak, we intend to impose the harshest possible sanctions allowed under our Student Rights and Responsibilities Policy in proportion to the role played by each participant,” Adamson writes. “This could include penalties up to and including suspension or expulsion.”
Adamson writes the college continues to cooperated with Peterborough Public Health’s investigation into the outbreak, “and will offer our full cooperation with Peterborough Police Service should that become necessary.”
According to Peterborough Public Health, the students who attended the social gatherings are enrolled in trades programs and health care worker programs, primarily personal support worker programs, leading to a further rebuke from Adamson.
“For those students training for careers in healthcare professions, there are even higher expectations and professional standards that are expected to be upheld,” Adamson writes. “It is obvious that a group of students chose to behave in an irresponsible manner that has put many members of our community at risk.”
“The vast majority of our students have adhered to safe practice guidelines for almost one full year,” Adamson adds. “We have not had a case of COVID-19 transmission occur at any of our campuses. This makes the behaviour of this small group of students even more disheartening and the apparent lack of the attention to safety protocols at a large complex populated by students so upsetting.”
For students not involved in the gatherings who have been affected by the outbreak, Adamson states, “We pledge our full support to ensure the successful completion of your studies”, adding “We will offer additional academic and personal counselling services and we will ensure that all learning outcomes for your program are achieved without extending the semester.”
“We recognize that the general public and our valued partners are also very disappointed,” Adamson concludes. “As we take action to investigate and hold those responsible accountable for their actions, we must also come together to support each other.”