Stillwater City Council To Revisit COVID-19 Response After Viral Video

Monday, August 17th 2020, 5:12 pm
By: Tevis Hillis

Students are back at Oklahoma State University.

As students met this weekend in large groups, with one video going viral, business owners and school officials say they are not surprised students got together in such large groups.

"This weekend was nothing out of the ordinary for students coming back into Stillwater," said Shawn Walls, the owner of The Union. 

A viral video of students crowded into a bar called The Union is making residents concerned about COVID-19.

The Stillwater City Council is meeting Monday night to discuss that crowded bar and how to move forward.

Stillwater Mayor Will Joyce said he's heard from many of his residents earlier on Monday.

"I have gotten a lot of comments just based off the video this weekend that people would like to see less of that and a lot of people who want to shut down bars entirely. Then there is also folks who feel like this is what should be expected in a college: town with school reopening," Joyce said.

A full shutdown also brings concern, worry that students will get together anyway.

"There are concerns all together if we shut down bars all together that students will find a house or another place where they can all gather," Joyce said. 

The union's owner said it's safer to have the students in a controlled atmosphere like bars and clubs.

"The students are going to be social anyway. We are regulated. We are under strict guidelines and regulations. We can control what is going on inside of our building," said Walls.

Walls said that viral video doesn't tell the entire story.

"Of that video, of the eight seconds was not the reality of what was going on that night," said Walls.

Walls said his staff was cutting the capacity to less than half, forcing people to leave when it became too crowded.

OSU President Burns Hargis issued the following statement Monday regarding the recent gatherings:

Cowboy family,

Oklahoma State University is disappointed in the behaviors exhibited by some of our students off campus over the weekend. Attending large dance parties where neither mask wearing nor social distancing occurred showed a clear disregard for the protocols set forth by both the university and the city of Stillwater. OSU and city officials have communicated behavior expectations to limit the spread of COVID19, and a successful, in-person instructional experience requires everyone to take personal responsibility. 

We ask that our students follow university and city protocols, avoid large gatherings, practice social distancing and wear masks, and appreciate the vast majority of those who are taking our guidelines seriously as evidenced by a .7% positive rate on move-in day. The in-person campus experience we all love here at OSU depends on it this semester.

Go Pokes!

President Burns Hargis