A post-game celebration flooded North Sheridan Road near Loyola’s Lake Shore campus March 21 shortly after the Ramblers won over University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, March Madness. Now, university officials are condemning what they call “not acceptable or responsible forms of celebration.”
In an email to Loyola students March 25, Assistant Vice President for Student Development and Dean of Students Will Rodriguez and Student Government of Loyola Chicago President Maddie Drescher addressed the celebration that followed after No. 1-seeded Illinois fell to the No.8-seeded Ramblers.
“There were many students reported to have violated COVID-19 health and safety protocols, as well as open container laws,” Rodriguez and Drescher said in the email.
When asked whether students will be sanctioned following the incident, Rodriguez said in an email to The Phoenix, “All reports of student misconduct from this past weekend will continue to be routed to the Office of Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution for review and processing.”
It’s unclear if and how many students may be sanctioned. The Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment by the time of publication.
It’s also unclear whether the university is taking any measures to prevent a similar event when the Ramblers take on Oregon State in the afternoon of Saturday, March 27. Rodriguez forwarded The Phoenix’s question asking about what, if any, measures the school is taking to Campus Safety and University Marking and Communications who haven’t responded as of publication.
Shortly after the win, students flooded to North Sheridan Road near Loyola’s Fordham Hall to celebrate, The Phoenix reported. After police arrived, most students moved to the side of the street and sidewalk where they danced, played music and cheered as cars drove by honking. Many students appeared to not be masked property or following other COVID-19 precautions such as social distancing.
The students remained outside the residence hall for about an hour and a half according to Phoenix reporters on the scene.
Rodriguez and Drescher also described the incident as disrespectful to the Lake Shore Campus’ (LSC) surrounding neighborhood — Rogers Park — where many Loyola students are “guests.”
“With the pandemic disproportionately affecting Black and Brown communities and Rogers Park being one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city and in our country, we must hold ourselves and one another accountable to be safe and compliant with COVID-19 guidelines,” they wrote. “To do so is one way we can actively support our communities of color.”
The celebration came as some Loyola students have returned to campus and in-person classes in the greatest numbers since the pandemic began. At the start of the spring semester, the university welcomed back first-year students to LSC residence halls and a fraction of Loyola classes began in-person instruction.
Just a few weeks ago, the university also announced plans to “return fully” to its Chicago campuses with in-person classes and residence halls in the upcoming fall semester.
Noting current in-person classes and fall semester plans, Rodriguez and Drescher stressed the importance of student compliance with COVID-19 precautions and testing, and the risk non-compliance poses to “set us back and jeopardize future in-person opportunities.”
They also referenced a recent increase in Chicago’s COVID-19 case count. As of March 27, the city’s seven-day rolling average positivity rate stands at 3.6 percent compared to last week’s 2.9 percent, according to city data.
As the Ramblers prepare to take on No. 12-seeded Oregon State, the two called on students to celebrate in small groups or virtually.
“Please avoid having what is truly a once-in-a-lifetime celebratory event turn into a matter that results in a referral to the Office of Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution and, more importantly, a rise in COVID-19 cases in Chicago, led by young adults and college students,” the email said.
In a separate emailed statement to The Phoenix, Drescher reiterated some of the points shared in the March 25 email. She said she was “deeply disappointed and frustrated” at what happened March 21 and reiterated the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on communities of color.
“For members of our student body (a predominantly white student body) to willfully disregard COVID-19 required safety practices as guests in the Rogers Park community, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Chicago and in the country, is truly dangerous and, frankly, racist behavior,” she wrote.
She also pointed out “alarming discrepancies” in how Campus Safety and police addressed the crowd of partiers and the student protests supporting Black Lives Matter earlier in the school year.
“To see officers giving high-fives, fist-bumps, and thumbs-up to members in the crowd on Sunday that were unmasked, not socially distanced, and blatantly breaking open container laws speaks volumes to the value we’ve collectively placed on an athletic victory over that of Black lives,” Drescher said.
This past year, protests happened on and near Loyola campuses as students called on the university to better support students of color, among other things. One day of protests led to six student arrests.
In their email, Drescher and Rodriguez thanked those in the community who have been compliant with health and safety guidelines and surveillance testing, and advised students to contact 773-508-MASK (6275) if they observe anything on or around Loyola campuses that appears to be against COVID-19 guidelines.