UCC Students' Union has said it hopes the possibility of expulsion from college for hosting or attending house parties does not become a reality, adding that young people are "conscious" of public health guidelines around Covid-19.
The vice president of the UCC SU, Eimear Curtin, said the threat of expulsion — as outlined in an email to students by interim president of University College Cork, Professor John Halloran — was a new development and came amid pressure on the SU to defer or scrap its Virtual Freshers Week.
That is due to take place this week, despite Prof Halloran and local residents who live close to UCC appealing for it to be pulled.
But Ms Curtin, who is also SU education officer, said while traditionally freshers week involved people going out to pubs and clubs, that was not going to happen under the current restrictions.
"Our event is completely tailored towards that situation," she said.
Ms Curtin said the Virtual Freshers Week involved online events such as cooking classes and hockey demonstrations aimed at giving students a taster of life at UCC.
Ms Curtin had been on a Zoom call last Friday with Prof Halloran, members of Cork City Council and An Garda Síochána, and Catherine Clancy of the Magazine Road and Surrounding Areas Residents Association.
Ms Clancy said all had appealed to the SU for Virtual Freshers Week to be postponed or scrapped, but Ms Curtin said while this had been discussed among student leaders, it was ultimately decided it should proceed.
"We are not advocating in any way for anybody to meet up out of the household or outside of the guidelines," she said.
"We are giving students a bad reputation sometimes and putting them all under one heading."
In the email issued to all students over the weekend, Prof John Halloran stressed that "students found to be organising, hosting, or attending gatherings which are in breach of guidelines will be subject to sanction up to and including expulsion from the university, where warranted".
Prof Halloran also said he had appealed to UCC Students' Union that Virtual Freshers Week be postponed as "the university cannot support its operation".
Confused to be reading this today.— Naoise Crowley - UCCSU (@UCCSUPresident) September 25, 2020
The idea of a €75 fine was raised by staff over the past few weeks, however, has been consistently and strongly opposed on numerous occasions by @UCCSU
Hammering students’ pockets isn’t the way to do it! https://t.co/9xv8uM4zO1
The firm warning comes after students had already been asked not to attend campus for the next fortnight under public health guidance.
"Even though many of these events are online, our deep concern is that they will lead to gatherings at a time when our country needs us to minimise our contacts," wrote Prof Halloran.
"Please do not take actions now that could impact your future."
Ms Clancy said: "We are stressed out of our minds at this stage", adding there was "no such thing as a Virtual Freshers Week", referring to potential queues outside houses and shops.