Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday balked at what he described as “incredibly draconian” university policies in the state, claiming they punish students for attending large gatherings amid the coronavirus, according to reports.
The Republican suggested he might be open to a student “bill of rights” and said the state was looking into options to protect students, FOX 35 in Orlando and Politico reported.
The governor’s comments came as some colleges across the country and in Florida have had to close their campuses soon after reopening because of coronavirus clusters attributed to student parties.
Some colleges, including Florida State University in Tallahassee, have threatened to suspend or even expel students who attend large parties in violation of school rules.
“I personally think it’s incredibly draconian that a student would get potentially expelled for going to a party,” DeSantis said at a Tallahassee news conference about public health. “That’s what college kids do.”
In a letter to students last week, Florida State University President John Thrasher wrote, “Noncompliance with the expectations outlined in our Fall 2020 plan will not be tolerated. We must demonstrate our commitment to each other and this great university by doing everything we can to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
That included attending large gatherings and failing to isolate if a student test positive for the virus.
“Students should be on campus,” Harvard University Medical School Professor Dr. Martin Kulldorff, who was part of the news conference, said. “They should go. If they get sick, they should maybe stay in the dorm room until they are well if they have a cough. Colleges should operate more or less normally.”
Florida State has seen more than 2,100 students and staff test positive since March and the University of Florida in Gainesville has had more than 700 students and staff contract the virus, FOX 35 reported.
“We’ve got to be reasonable about this and really focus the efforts on where the most significant risk is,” DeSantis said, according to Politico.
By early Friday more than 201,000 Americans have died of the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.