Some Loyola students say they’ve noticed classmates following COVID-19 guidelines in the classroom but have raised questions about unmasked students gathering in dorms.
As a requirement to be on campus this semester, Loyola enforced new safety measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Students and staff are required to be fully vaccinated — apart from a few exemption — and must be masked while indoors, and professors are required to keep seating charts to aid with contact tracing.
Additionally, Loyola has changed residence hall policies, placing a visitor cap of two people per room.
To keep rates low, everyone is asked to continue to follow safety guidelines and to report any COVID-19 violations to the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution (OSCCR).
Any violation of community standards is a reportable offense, but most notable this semester are violations of COVID-19 community standards, according to Stacey Jaksa, director of OSCCR.
This most commonly includes students not complying with wearing their face mask, not informing the school of a positive test, having too many guests in a residence hall room and vaccine exempt students not complying with COVID-19 testing, according to Jaksa.
Jaksa wouldn’t provide The Phoenix with the number of students who have violated COVID-19 regulations, but she shed some light on the trends they’re seeing.
“I think by and large the most violations are related to compliance with mask wearing and … I would say guest and occupancy,” Jaksa said.
Jaksa said she wouldn’t attribute guest policy violations entirely to breaking COVID-19 guidelines. She said these violations have been higher for multiple years now, which she attributes to students transitioning into a community living space where guidelines have to be tracked and followed.
“The highest numbers are from the residence halls,” Jaksa said. “We are getting reports from other areas of campus that are not the residence halls. We’ve gotten reports from Halas, the IC and we’ve gotten a couple of reports from classrooms like in Mundelein. But it’s not at a rate that I would consider problematic.”
Students and faculty can also file a form through OSCCRs homepage to report anyone who violates Loyola’s Community Standards. If students are uncomfortable with this process, they’re encouraged to talk with a residence hall worker or someone with the OSCCR office to get help.
Last year, the Phoenix reported there were 73 COVID-19 violations between Jan. 1 and Feb. 5. Though it’s important to note the number of students living and attending classes on campus was significantly lower than this semester.
Jaksa said that a major part of student workers’ jobs, particularly RAs, is to enforce community guidelines – including COVID-19 safety practices. Along with RAs, student workers in the Damen Student Center are expected to enforce mask-wearing, The Phoenix reported.
Anisa Nasse, a first-year graduate student studying biology, works in the library and said she occasionally has issues with students not wearing their masks.
Though, she hasn’t reported anyone. She said most students comply when they’re asked to pull their mask up or put it on, so she doesn’t feel the need to make a report.
Other students said they don’t report COVID-19 violations they see to the university.
Ty McGuire, a first-year student who’s majoring in finance and lives in Mertz Hall, said he hasn’t noticed anyone in his classes violating the rules but sometimes sees people in common areas or bathrooms of his residence hall without their mask on.
“The biggest weakness is in the dorms,” McGuire said. “When people come back to their dorms, they’re used to being at home, so they don’t always wear their masks.”
Despite this, he said he hasn’t reported anyone to OSCCR yet for violating protocols because he mostly sees the violations in passing – though he said he would report if he felt there was a bigger risk to his safety.
Jaksa said the process after a report is filed varies case to case. Policies are categorized on an A, B and C scale, with A being the least severe and C being the most. Every community standard is put into a category and the outcome of a violation will vary depending on which category it is in.
“Generally speaking, a failure to comply violation is typically category A or B violation depending on the situation,” Jaksa said. “It can actually be any of the three. But related to COVID, typically the most violations that we see live in the A and B category range.”
Many factors are taken into account on categorizing the violation, such as if it’s a student’s first violation, and the impact it has on others and the community, Jaksa said.
Jaksa said typically, cases that have a greater impact on the Loyola and surrounding communities are considered more severe, resulting in more severe outcomes.
This is true with all OSCCR violations, but is particularly important with COVID-19 violations because they typically pose a much greater threat to the health and well being of the community.
If it’s deemed likely a student violated a policy, educational and disciplinary outcomes will be assigned, depending on the case. Jaksa said students are most commonly assigned with one disciplinary outcome and one or more educational outcomes.
“The goal is they learn something from the outcome that is assigned, but also that the outcome prevents recurrence and repairs harm as best as possible,” Jaksa said.
Some examples of an educational outcome include a digital creative reflection, a written reflection, or attending a value workshop. For both the digital and written reflection, students are given a prompt related to their violation and must create a body of work based on their learning experience.
The value workshop is led by student leaders in OSCCR and aims to get students to identify their values and find ways to reciprocate them back into the community.
Jaksa said the goal of reporting, investigating and outcomes of violations is to strengthen the Loyola community – on and off campus – and to encourage students to be respectful of everyone included in this community.
“I just hope students are mindful of the spaces they’re in,” Jaksa said. “I hope students let us know if they need assistance but also that there is that peer to peer accountability happening too.”
As Loyola continues the eighth week of classes, the seven-day average COVID-19 positivity rate is at 0.68%, which is only slightly higher than last week’s rates of 0.49%. So far this semester, the university’s positivity rate peaked the week of Labor Day, with 3.15% positivity.
According to the City of Chicago COVID-19 Dashboard, the city has a 2.0% positivity rate as of Oct. 19. While the state of Illinois has a 2.68% positivity rate. Loyola’s campus rates are lower than both the city and state.