Northeastern sends warning letter to first-years who expressed intent to party in Instagram poll

Corey Dockser, news correspondent

Incoming first-year students who responded affirmatively to a poll on the Northeastern Class of 2024 Instagram about attending parties this fall received an email from the university warning them of consequences if they fail to follow social distancing restrictions. In total, 115 first-years and their parents received the letter, according to the Boston Globe.

A screenshot of the Instagram poll 28 minutes after it was posted.

“It has been brought to our attention that on a social media platform you have indicated an intent to gather in large groups and engage in parties while disregarding numerous government and university restrictions regarding safe distancing and social gatherings during the COVID-19 crisis, and encouraged others to do the same,” Senior Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Madeleine Estabrook wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The News. “This is unacceptable, will not be tolerated, and presents a danger to your health and the health of our community.”

The owners of the Northeastern Class of 2024 Instagram declined to speak to The News regarding why they gave the list of respondents to the administration, even anonymously, saying they did not “want this to drag on longer.”

The letter stated that students were required to send a written response, “specifically recognizing that ‘Inciting, participating in, or encouraging any disturbance for purposes of committing any action that presents a clear and present danger to self or others’ is a violation of the Code of Student Conduct.” 

Additionally, the letter instructed students to sign the “Expectations for Return to Campus Attestation,” an agreement required of all students returning to campus, and practice “model behavior by actively participating in our Protect the Pack campaign,” the university’s COVID-19 health and safety campaign.

Students who fail to complete these tasks, the letter reads, will have their offers of admission rescinded. It does not include a deadline.

The letter acknowledged that responding to the poll did not necessarily indicate a willingness to party. “Even if this gesture on social media was made in jest, your willingness to mock the well-being of our community, and the efforts made to protect it, demonstrates a degree of carelessness that does not meet the values and principles we uphold.”

The unusually curt tone of the letter is illustrative of the university’s investment — both fiscal and reputational — on successfully running during the pandemic. In an Aug. 18 Washington Post op-ed, President Joseph E. Aoun laid out his philosophy: “Universities need to take control of the virus — and show our communities how to do the same.”

Deanna Schwartz contributed reporting to this article.