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Staying Healthy Together: Making sense of Miami University's Pledge, the City of Oxford's mass gathering ordinance, and COVID regulations

Are gathering of more than 10 people allowed in at Miami University?

Maybe. Since the University released its Healthy Together Pledge (see my previous blog post here) in the summer of 2020, the City of Oxford has passed its own ordinance governing gatherings.

On August 18, 2020, the City of Oxford passed an emergency ordinance that prohibits "mass gatherings." The ordinance states that a "mass gathering" means "any social gathering, event or convening that brings together greater than ten non-household persons at the same time, to include both indoor and outdoor gatherings. The ordinance goes on to state that "non-household" means any individuals who do not reside within the same housing unit or dwelling. The ordinance goes on to list exceptions to the prohibition like schools, sporting events, grocery stores, restaurants, and other facilities where the mass gathering prohibition does not apply.

A violation of the ordinance is subject to a civil penalty of $500 for a first violation and $1000 for each subsequent violation.

In other words, there are places that having more than 10 people present is not a violation of the ordinance like the listed exceptions or households that have more than 10 residents. The ordinance's language is not clear on whether more than 10 people at a residential home is allowed if not more than 10 non-household members are present. For example, if a house has six residents, can they invite only four more visitors or more than ten total people if they do not invite more than ten visitors?

While the text of the statute is muddled, the announcement of the ordinance on the City of Oxford's web site makes a clear proclamation that the ordinance limits gatherings to 10 individuals (total)-unless a house already has more than 10 residents.

How is Miami University responding to mass gatherings?

Miami University's Healthy Together Pledge prohibits indoor gatherings but does allow for outdoor gatherings if social distancing and other health-related precautions can be taken. As noted in our previous blog, the Pledge states that the frequency and severity of violations of the Pledge would be considered by the University and that repeated violations could be punished by suspension or dismissal.

However, since the start of the school year the school's disciplinary offense has already adjudicated cases related to mass gatherings under its Endangering Health or Safety and Failure to Comply sections in its Code of Conduct. Students have been found responsible for violations and suspensions have been recommended.

A mass gathering in Oxford has more than a simple civil fine at stake. Even one violation of that ordinance could mean at least a semester long suspension.

If you receive a citation or notice of disciplinary proceedings and would like to speak with one of our experienced attorneys at Rittgers & Rittgers, please call 513-524-5000 for a free consultation.

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