Austin Fire Marshal shuts down West Campus party before football game

Anna Canizales

Dozens of students gathered at the Texas Rho fraternity house in West Campus before the Longhorns’ opening football game Saturday, prompting the Austin Fire Marshal to shut the party down.

The Fire Marshal responded after someone called 311 to report the party, said Alina Carnahan, a city of Austin spokesperson. The Fire Marshal shut down the party and issued Texas Rho, formerly Sigma Alpha Epsilon, a citation for not having a Temporary Change of Use permit for the party and for violating the rule prohibiting public gatherings of more than 10 people, Carnahan said.

The Temporary Change of Use fine from the City can be up to $500 and the COVID-19 fine can be up to $2,000, Carnahan said. The final amounts will be determined by the judge in District Court at a later date, Carnahan said.

“We want individuals, organizations and businesses to prioritize their safety and the safety of the community,” Carnahan said. “Education is always the first step before citations. The city, county, UT and many other organizations have been promoting and sharing information about COVID-19 compliance and safety.” 

As students went into the party, black tarps were set up to block the view from onlookers, according to KXAN. A Snapchat video of the event surfaced on social media, gaining over one thousand likes. 

History sophomore Sophia Harkins said she is involved in Greek life but has not been going to parties and was shocked to see such a large gathering taking place.

“No one’s (going to) die if you don’t party for a semester, but people might die if you do,” Harkins said. “I’m not perfect either, but I just felt like it was irresponsible. I don’t understand what is keeping the University from doing anything.” 

UT spokesperson J.B. Bird said the organization that hosted the party is independent from the University, and the University expects all students to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines.  

“UT relies on the city of Austin and other authorities to enforce their rules off campus in areas where our students commonly live, and that appears to have happened in this situation,” Bird said. “We remind all community members they can call the city through 311 if concerned the rules are not being followed.”

On Sept. 10, the University reported three clusters of COVID-19 cases in West Campus totaling around 100 positive cases, according to previous reporting from the Texan