College is not just a place to learn.

It’s also a place to show how you’ve applied what you’ve learned. If it wasn’t, colleges wouldn’t ask for high school transcripts and class rankings and test scores. No 16-year-olds would take AP chemistry. Eighth grade math class wouldn’t matter.

But it does. We spend 18 years building our children’s knowledge base, layer by layer, until they are able to process information and calculate risk, determine priorities and follow instructions.

And yet every year as school starts, college students tend to show that 18 years of learning leaves some gaps in those basic skills.

The University of Pittsburgh has placed nine chapters of Greek life organizations on interim suspensions for violations of health and safety guidelines and the student code. Five of those were suspended before the first day of class. The others came on the first day.

The incidents leading up to the suspensions are not being released, and investigations are being conducted. We cannot say exactly what happened, but students who spoke with the Tribune-

Review said it was well known some Greek organizations were hosting parties and breaking covid-19 rules for social distancing.

What we do know is fraternity and sorority suspensions — especially early in a school term — are not a 2020 phenomenon. They definitely aren’t just a Pitt problem.

One of the fraternities suspended is Pi Kappa Alpha, which also had its Penn State main campus chapter suspended Sunday. The Penn State reason is clear. The fraternity threw a party for 70 people, at least half of whom didn’t live at the house. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, that was not allowed.

“We’re all in this together, so when one of us, or a group, behaves in ways that threaten all of us, we must act, and we must act quickly,” said Damon Sims, Penn State vice president for Student Affairs. “Social gatherings are among the very best ways to spread the virus, and refusing to comply with the public health mandates, even when directed to do so by university officials, will not be tolerated.”

The rules for college on a normal year are not hard to understand. They basically are the rules for being an adult. Don’t drink if you aren’t old enough, and if you are, don’t drink until you do something stupid. Don’t do drugs. Don’t break the law. Covid-19 has added a few extras as far as social distancing is concerned, but the idea still holds.

Other states and schools are dealing with similar problems and seeing growing numbers of coronavirus cases on campus. Alabama has 972 positive students. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has 835. That makes the 148 Penn State found with pre-arrival testing seem manageable and the handful found in Pittsburgh colleges downright paltry.

But despite the numbers, the behavior is something else. It is 100% predictable.

College students are young adults, but they also are big kids. They are learning and growing, and while they may know the rules, they are testing their limits. And that leads to a world of bright ideas and bad decisions.

And while broken rules in frat houses have had deadly or dangerous consequences before, the difference this year is how fast those consequences can spread.

— The Tribune-Review, Greensburg

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