Housing restriction generates dilemma between socialization and safety

Due to a no-guest policy, on-campus housing residents are forced to decide between fostering friendships and keeping the greater DePaul community safe. Residents are growing frustrated with the policy as they struggle to make friends, prompting residents to take potentially unsafe measures.

“With all students being vaccinated on campus I feel like it is unfair that we can’t even have people from [DePaul] come to our rooms,” Belden-Racine Hall resident Gabriella Bongiorno said. “And I think it makes more people have off-campus parties, which end up with people from other places who may or may not be vaccinated.”

With students going out more, some residents feel a sense of discomfort since not everyone is taking the same measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“When there are off-campus parties, you risk being in the same place as someone who isn’t vaccinated,” Bongiorno said. “Unlike if we could hang out with people in our dorms, we know we are all vaccinated.”

Exposure to unvaccinated individuals, who are more prone to Covid-19, could potentially pass it along for DePaul students to spread within DePaul’s gates. While residents are able to meet people at DePaul events and by joining student organizations, they are struggling to build upon these initial introductions.

“I haven’t been able to go hang out with people [I’ve] met in class in their rooms,” Bongiorno said. “I know I could sit in the quad, but sometimes you don’t want to sit outside on a Friday night at 11 p.m.”

According to Rick Moreci, director of housing, dining and student centers, the housing department has been providing residents with options to socialize through events in residence halls and through residence hall council. However, students have concerns about these events not providing the atmosphere to create lasting friendships.

“The first few days my RA had a few movie nights,” Bongiorno said. “I’m sure they helped get people socialized, but it just felt really forced, I think.”

While some students are upset by the policy, which was implemented on Aug. 21, others are simply glad to be back on campus and are just going with the flow.

“If we’re being completely frank, I am kinda over fighting against these kinds of things,” McCabe Hall resident Nicholas Magel said. “DePaul Housing is doing what it thinks is the best bet and I think they’re just wanting to play it as safe as they can. After 18 months of this, I’m just kinda rolling with it.”

Moreci told The DePaulia in an email on Sept. 23 that there will be adjustments to the policy, and the official ruling with details will be provided to students on Sept. 27.

“As of now, we are intending to relax a small portion of the suspended guest policy by allowing a small subset of guests,” Moreci wrote. “Details will be released to our students on [Monday]. Student Housing will also re-evaluate the guest policy every two weeks moving forward and will continue to provide regular updates to our residents about where we are.”

According to Moreci, DePaul did not come to the conclusion of implementing this initial policy lightly, but wanted to provide as safe of an environment as possible.

“DePaul Student Housing decided to temporarily suspend our normal guest policy at the onset of this academic year because we wanted to carefully observe how the year started with a full complement of students back on campus and in the residence halls,” Moreci wrote. “We wanted to track Covid-positive case counts not only on campus, but also throughout Chicago.”

Unlike DePaul, nearby Loyola University Chicago has not implemented a no-guest restriction in student housing. Loyola allows their on-campus dwellers to have two guests per room, but they have restrictions forcing them to wear face coverings in common areas.

Since Sept. 1, Loyola has had a positive infection rate of 1.73 percent of all Covid-19 tests administered with a total of 99 cases, while DePaul has a total of 54 reported cases since Sept. 1.

The University of Chicago has a regulation for on-campus residents, only allowing visitors that are also on-campus residents. They have a Covid-19 test positive rate of 0.22 percent since Sept. 20 of 2020. DePaul’s Covid-19 dashboard does not provide a test positive rate.

Craig Klugman, health sciences professor and DePaul Covid-19 task force member, said that policies like these force students to remember their commitment to public health safety does not end at DePaul’s campus border.

“Although DePaul cannot control the COVID-related behaviors of students, faculty or staff off campus, we all agreed to the DePaul Health & Safety pledge,” Klugman said. “Thus, there is an expectation that we all agreed to keep our community safe and that commitment does not end at Fullerton.”