ANN ARBOR, MI – With students slowly returning to Ann Arbor to attend classes at the University of Michigan, concerns are being aired regarding how police will handle what typically comes with them — parties.

The university announced in June it would offer in-person classes when its fall semester begins on Aug. 31, heightening concerns that students may host ill-advised parties and social gathering despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s a lot of questions out there as far as once the students start returning and you see a lot on social media with the fraternities having their parties and a lot of people outside,” Police Oversight Commission Vice-Chairwoman Frances Todoro-Hargreaves said at a July 21 commission meeting.

“But in a photograph, it could look like there’s 200 people and there’s actually only 20. So the question is (for mask enforcement) will police be going to those things or things like that?”

University of Michigan will offer in-person classes for fall semester

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-147 went into effect July 13 and requires businesses to refuse entry to those not wearing masks unless they fall under exemptions in the law.

Businesses failing to do so may have their licenses suspended by the state while individuals not in compliance face a misdemeanor and up to a $500 fine.

Mask requirements existed prior to July 13, but refusal to wear one wasn’t a punishable crime until this month.

Ann Arbor Police Chief Michael Cox has addressed local enforcement concerns stating, while he hopes for voluntary compliance, the department will focus on education first much like how it did at the start of the pandemic and only issue citations for special circumstances.

“Traditionally, with non-police issues, we try to educate on how they can stay safe and everyone else can stay safe,” Cox said. “We do have the ability, obviously, to write a safety citation in the executive order, but that would be reserved obviously for somebody who clearly doesn’t care about the well being of the public or anyone else.”

After the announcement of the executive order, leaders from each public safety agency within Washtenaw County met to discuss and align response protocols and decided on the following four procedures:

•Upon calling 911, dispatch will relay the complaint to your local police agency

•Each agency will determine the severity of the violation and respond appropriately

•Initial response will focus on education in order to gain compliance with the order

•The intent is not to arrest, but appropriate action will be taken if necessary

“While all aspects of the executive order are to be followed and law enforcement is interested in violations, we are asking callers to be mindful of the limited law enforcement resources available to respond to all calls at this time,” Ann Arbor Deputy Chief Amiee Metzer said. “We ask that you focus on behaviors that pose serious risk to public safety and that may exacerbate community spread.”

Police hope incoming students will follow the example set by their predecessors at the start of the pandemic in March when all St. Patrick’s Day festivities were canceled after Whitmer’s then order prohibiting events and gatherings of 50 people or more.

The students abide: No arrests or citations amid event ban on St. Patrick’s Day at UM, MSU

The Ann Arbor Police department made no arrests and found no code violations during the March 17 holiday, with police afterward thanking residents for abiding the then new mandate.

As students prepare to return to campus now, Nicole Banks, University of Michigan assistant dean of students and interim director of fraternity and sorority life, said all four fraternity and sorority councils on campus are working with their chapters to continue the prohibition of large social events.

“No more registering, no more expectation for support to have large events,” Banks said. “It’s just not going to be permitted.”

Banks added that most of the national headquarters of the fraternal organizations are discouraging any events that will exceed public health guidelines in different locales. She also said AAPD has been responsive to the work of student’s “self-governance” in making sure their policies are more transparent and accessible for students as they prepare for the fall semester.