Loyola changed its guest policy as of Nov. 1, allowing for non-students to be checked into residence halls for the first time since before the pandemic. The decision was made in part to allow tours of residence halls to resume, according to university officials.
“We can confirm that a reason the University updated its guest policy was to allow for the resumption of tours in residence halls,” Loyola spokesperson Anna Shymanski Zach said.
This is the first change to the guest policy so far this school year and is a step towards the pre-COVID-19 guest rules.
“Loyola continues to gradually and responsibly loosen COVID-19 restrictions on campus, based on local public health guidance and close monitoring of our community’s positivity rate,” Shymanski Zach said.
Non-student guests will be required to provide proof of vaccination at the front desk to enter.
The rest of the guidelines in place remain the same, according to Loyola’s Return to Campus website. Everyone will still be required to wear masks in common areas and are strongly encouraged to stay masked in resident rooms and apartments.
For the time being, overnight guests — student and non-student — still aren’t permitted, and a maximum occupancy of two guests per room is still in place. These rules may be reconsidered and changed at some point, according to Anna Shymanski Zach.
This policy change comes as Loyola’s COVID-19 test positivity rate has reached some of the lowest points this school year in recent weeks. The positivity rate hit 0% between Oct. 21 and Oct. 24. The numbers have gone up again slightly, hitting 0.47% on Nov. 1. COVID-19 cases in Illinois have also been steadily decreasing — as according to the Center for Disease Control — the seven day average in positive cases has decreased by about 20% during October.
None of these decisions are set in stone. Loyola’s official guidelines state, “The guest policy may be modified at any time due to an increase in guest policy violations or COVID-19 positivity on campus.”
First-year student Jaylin Jones said he was excited about the policy change, although he had some concern over non-students being allowed entry into residence halls.
“It’s cool, although it’ll definitely be different,” Jones, a human services major, said. “I might have to start locking my door if there are gonna be random people walking around.”
Abida Diasso, a first-year public health major, brought up a common complaint students have about the allowed hours for student guests.
“It’s frustrating that they will allow anyone to come in, but we can’t let Loyola students stay as long as we want,” she said. “If we are going to let anybody in, then guests should be unlimited.”
Prior to the pandemic, there wasn’t the rule that guests must be checked in before 10 p.m. and checked out before midnight, non-Loyola guests, however, did need to be checked out before a certain time, according to a 2019 Loyola student handbook. Overnight guests were allowed through overnight guest passes issued by residence life, as long as every roommate agreed.
First-year Dylan Canyon shared Diasso’s sentiments on the current state of the guest policy.
“This change is a good first step towards a return to normalcy,” Canyon, a finance major, said. “However, I think that the guest hours are counterproductive to mitigating COVID. Considering that you can’t check someone in after 10, it creates more of an incentive to go out into the city where there is no guarantee of vaccination, and it facilitates spread.”
A petition — hosted on Change.org — started by the “United Students of Loyola” on Nov. 1, calling for the university to change these rules has received over 600 signatures. The petition cites Loyola’s near 100% vaccination rate as a reason why the restrictions are unnecessary.
In an email to The Phoenix, Shymanski Zach offered a university response to these criticisms.
“The Department of Residence Life values student feedback as it works to gradually and safely resume pre-COVID-19 operations and protocols in residence halls,” she said.
Canyon was not satisfied with this statement.
“I want to know why it is safer for us to gather outside in the cold than staying within our own dorms where we know everyone is vaccinated, and everyone is accountable to the university,” he said.