Concerns grow amid rumors of UNCW students attending crowded party

Neighbors report student gatherings off-campus amid COVID fears

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Local residents are already concerned about students returning to campus after videos of University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) students at a crowded party with no masks circulated on social media.

“[If] you’re a UNCW student, we want you to follow UNCW standards no matter where you are,” said Mike Walker, Dean of Students. “You could be in Wilmington or could be down in Florida. We want you to conduct yourself in a certain regard.”

Despite the rumors, UNCW officials say they believe most students are taking the virus seriously.

“We’ve worked directly with our sorority and fraternity community who, last semester, were actually very cooperative with restricting their social activities in compliance with the state regulations,” said Walker.

As for on-campus activity, students are held to high expectations.

“We’ve broadly educated on the three Ws and it’s required that students have masks while walking out in the open on campus.”

But once they step foot off UNCW grounds, there isn’t much the university can do.

“We’ll inform them that a complaint was filed and we’ll ask them to respond to it if it was them. We engage in that initial level of education. From there, we have the ability to use the Campus Conduct System. To me, that’s a secondary response.”

Testing is in full swing this week as classes begin tomorrow. While there are online classes available, some will still meet in person. To make sure that can happen safely, students waited for hours in line to get a test result they hope comes back negative. Senior Matt Cara got in line at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning and expected to be there until the afternoon.

“We’ve really been spending time I think from last Thursday forward in Lot 1A across from green track with students and their families coming back collecting those test results. Then, we have rapid testing occurring in the Burney Center for those who did not get a chance to have a test done before returning to Wilmington.”

Students are also hopeful that their classmates make good choices.

“I think most of us are trying to, but I think during the winter in Wilmington, you go a little stir-crazy,” said Cara. “I get wanting to go out. I think you’ve got to stick with the COVID guidelines.”

Another UNCW student, Grayson Cashwell, said the university has been working hard to keep classrooms and other common areas clean. Students are also only able to get their meals “to-go” from dining halls.

As for students partying, Walker said it’s difficult to identify students from a photo or video, so those acts may go unpunished.

The school’s COVID-19 dashboard shows 62 active cases, 52 of which are students who live off campus.

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