An appellate court has sided with NYU over its decision to suspend three students for attending an off-campus party where they were photographed maskless — overturning a lower court’s ruling.
Student athletes Elnaz “Elle” Pourasgari, Marc Santonocito and Ashley Storino all sued the university in September after the trio and eight other students were suspended for the fall semester following an anonymous tip to the school that they appeared in photos Aug. 14 not social distancing or wearing masks at a party.
In October, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead annulled NYU’s sanctions against the track-and-field students, finding that the penalties were “arbitrary, capricious and constitute an abuse of discretion.”
But on Thursday, the Appellate Division, First Department overturned Edmead’s ruling finding the suspensions weren’t arbitrary and capricious and were “made in the exercise of honest discretion,” the unanimous decision read.
“While the penalty of suspension is very harsh, it is not shockingly disproportionate to the offense,” the ruling said. “It does not shock the conscience for the university, acting during a pandemic, to enforce rules designed to prevent the spread of the virus with the penalty of suspension.”
And the students were warned by the school about these potential consequences, the appellate judges found.
“Petitioners had notice that the gatherings they attended in August 2020 could result in disciplinary action by NYU,” the ruling continued
“Thus, given their violation of the Executive Order, petitioners could have reasonably anticipated discipline for their conduct which put the University’s congregant student community at risk,” the decision said.
Karen Edler, a lawyer for the students, told The Post by email that they are “seriously” considering whether to appeal.
“Obviously we believe the Appellate Division erred in its decision overturning the trial court’s decision,” Edler said.
NYU Spokesman John Beckman said in a statement: “The University is pleased that the court’s ruling underscores the traditional latitude given to university decisions, particularly given the issues of health at stake.”
Beckman said it’s because most students have followed school rules that the university’s COVID-19 positivity rate has been “well below” the city’s.
“But in responding to those students who have not observed our safety rules, it is especially important in this time of pandemic that NYU be able to take action to keep our community safe,” Beckman said.