University plans to punish partying on and off campus

In response to questions about an Instagram page promoting 'COVID parties,' the University said it will not tolerate behavior that disregards health protocols

As ASU gears up for a modified fall semester, some students are preparing to party — but not without serious consequences, the University said.

Any student or group of students ignoring the health guidance issued in June, jeopardizing their own health and that of others, will be subject to discipline under the student code of conduct during the upcoming semester, a University spokesperson said after a social media account advertised "COVID parties" for ASU students.

The spokesperson said in an email they were aware of the account and were looking into posts advertising social gatherings with no distancing or mask-wearing policies.

"We will not allow social gatherings on-campus that are incompatible with health guidance during the fall semester," the spokesperson said in an email. "Further, if the University is made aware of social gatherings taking place off-campus purposefully designed to disregard public health protocols, the University will take action."

The ASU-specific Instagram account began publicly posting Monday, claiming students who return to campus will continue to host and attend parties despite health guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The University followed CDC guidelines, such as wearing face masks, enforcing social distancing and washing hands often, to make its policies for the fall semester. 

Posts on the account and screenshots of direct messages between the account manager and followers said the idea the U.S. is a “breeding ground” for the virus is a hoax.

The virus is not a hoax. As of Wednesday, the Arizona Department of Health Services is reporting a total of 150,609 positive cases and 2,974 deaths statewide. The day the account was made, 23 Arizonans died and another 1,559 tested positive for the new coronavirus. 

While many disagree with how the outbreak was handled in the U.S., the account compares the U.S.'s cases to other countries — with no mention of population size, type of government system or testing capacity — which is misleading to the more than 440 individuals who follow the account, as of Wednesday afternoon.

Hundreds have commented on the five posts criticizing the account's principle and the very idea of having parties during a pandemic.

One of the account's critics is Haniyah Syed, an incoming freshman majoring in biomedical sciences.

In messages to The State Press, Syed said she was unsure if the account was serious or not, but the number of followers proved that other students may not take the necessary precautions to keep the community safe when the semester begins in less than a month.

When Liana Soto, a senior studying biomedical engineering, saw the Instagram page promoting dangerous behavior, she decided to report the account to the University. Out of courtesy, she decided to share the University’s reply with the account, which in turn responded by sending Soto her own address, a move she felt was violating and a direct threat.

The account manager found Soto’s address to prove they were “untouchable,” according to screenshots shared with The State Press.

"I felt violated," Soto said. "I'm sure it's not that difficult to find an address but the fact that you are sending it to me, what does that imply? All because you want to throw COVID parties you want to threaten me?"

One post suggests events will occur at a Belarus consulate in Tempe because the police cannot enter to stop a party from happening. A consulate represents a government of a country outside its territory, similar to an embassy that represents the government of another country outside itself.

The post said the consulate building's address is not on Google Maps, but there is no embassy or consulate of Belarus in Arizona. Belarus, an eastern European country, only has an embassy in Washington, D.C. and an office for a consulate general in New York City, a Belarus diplomatic staff member said.  

The 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations codified law enforcement intervention and immunity in consulates and at embassies. It says that generally, any security force cannot enter without the permission of an ambassador. 

But rules for immunity are somewhat different at each embassy. Belarus Consulate General Viktar Charakhovich told The State Press he was unaware of the account and mentioned the office space in New York City was small and accessible only by appointment. 

The Instagram account's manager, who refused to give their name, said the deal with Belarus was "complicated" and did not provide any further information about a relationship with the Belarusian consulate.


Reach the reporters at pjhanse1@asu.edu and wmyskow@asu.edu and follow @piperjhansen and @wmyskow on Twitter. 

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