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Boston University is launching disciplinary hearings for 20 students who were caught by BU police violating school and state COVID-19 guidelines over the weekend at a spot on campus known to students as “the grotto.”

The students could be suspended for a semester and lose their tuition and other payments for gathering in a group larger than 25 people, underage drinking, and not wearing or not properly using face masks when found by BU police, the university’s website, BU Today, reported Tuesday.

“You just can’t have large-scale parties,” dean of students Kenneth Elmore told BU Today. “And that’s important, with Halloween coming.”

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The university also announced it had canceled spring break. The school normally closes for a week in March but will now continue to hold classes throughout the month. As a result, classes for the spring semester will now begin Jan. 25, BU Provost Jean Morrison wrote in an e-mail sent to the university community.

“These adjustments are designed to reduce our community’s risk of exposure to COVID-19 by limiting the amount of travel occurring within the semester,'' Morrison wrote. “I know the loss of spring break will be a disappointment to many of you, but we believe that this is an important public health measure that must be taken this year."

The disciplinary action stems from early Sunday morning, when university police found more than 25 students partying in a park area overlooking Nickerson Field on the school’s West campus. The students, all of whom were under the legal drinking age of 21, were "surrounded by empty and partially full beer cans and a portable speaker playing loud music,'' BU Today reported.

An undetermined number of students ran away, but 20 remained and were identified by police. Their names were shared with administrators, who are notifying students that the Judicial Affairs office will review their actions.

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Discipline can include “a semester-long suspension with no refund for tuition or room and board, or a deferred suspension, which means they would be suspended if they incur a second disciplinary infraction of any kind,” BU Today reported.

The total cost for a student living on campus without financial aid is $77,662 for the current academic year, according to the university.

The university has not suspended any students for COVID-19 violations, but has ordered a handful to shift to remote schooling, according to BU Today.


John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.