As new Villanova students arrived on campus this week, some participated in a large outdoor gathering that quickly drew attention for its lack of social distancing.

Video footage on local and national television programs — one of which dubbed the event a “pandemic party” — showed students crowded near a tent Wednesday evening. A number of students did not appear to be wearing masks.

A Villanova spokesperson on Saturday confirmed the gathering, which he said was attended by “a few hundred” students Wednesday, the second of two scheduled move-in days for incoming freshmen.

The university’s public safety department “responded to reports of the gathering and the crowd quickly dispersed,” said the spokesperson, Jonathan Gust. He said that “social distancing was not being maintained, and, while many students were wearing masks, others were not.”

Officials said the gathering was not an organized university orientation or a party, but an impromptu gathering of new students.

Photographs of Villanova University on Aug 15, 2020
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Photographs of Villanova University on Aug 15, 2020

Gust said the university “takes this matter very seriously, as a safe reopening requires the commitment of all Villanovans to do their part.” He did not comment on whether students involved had been penalized, but noted an email from university president Rev. Peter Donohue to students on Thursday that read, in part, “IT’S UP TO YOU.”

“If you follow the guidelines we have set up — wearing a mask at all times, washing your hands frequently, social distancing, and staying home when you are sick — we can make this semester on campus work,” the president wrote, adding that for students who did not follow those rules, “YOU WILL BE SENT HOME.”

That message was reinforced by the school’s dean of students and assistant dean of students Thursday in individual orientation groups with all freshmen, Gust said.