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Catholic University’s Dean of Students Precautions and Preparations for Spring Semester

Image courtesy of The Catholic University of America

By Jessica Fetrow

The Catholic University of America’s Office of the Dean of Students is still actively combating COVID-19 in the student population by regularly enforcing the Cardinals Care Pledge and reminding students to take necessary precautions in the fight against the coronavirus, especially with the spring season and holidays on the horizon. 

An email sent to the Catholic University community by Associate Dean of Students Heidi Zeich on March 12 in preparation for the St. Patrick’s Day holiday reminded students of the Cardinals Care Pledge and that the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the Office of the Dean of Students may take action if off-campus gatherings cause disturbances or break social distancing guidelines. The email also encouraged students to be mindful of their agreement to the Cardinals Care Pledge. 

“I also want to take this opportunity to remind you of the university’s relationship with the Brookland community, to educate you about how the university responds to inappropriate behaviors, and to encourage you to celebrate this feast day as a responsible member of the larger community,” said Zeich in the email. 

The Cardinals Care Pledge was initially published by the Office of the Dean of Students in October 2020 and revised in January 2021, stating, “As members of the Catholic University community, our relationships are governed by the commandment to ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

The pledge outlines the requirements of completing daily health screenings, maintaining social distancing, wearing face coverings indoors and outdoors on campus, following COVID-19 signage, and practicing “responsible citizenship” as a resident of the greater-Washington, D.C. community. The pledge also limits the number of individuals for “non-academic” in-person social gatherings to ten people. 

“I pledge to do my part to take responsibility for my own health and the protection of others, and to help keep our community safe from the spread of COVID-19,” reads the pledge. “I take this responsibility with the utmost seriousness and will follow the instructions and expectations provided by the University.” 

According to the Office of the Dean of Students, there have been 108 Cardinals Care Pledge violations, 80 face-covering violations, 111 visitation violations, and 29 social distancing violations during the fall semester and spring semesters as of March 9.

“Most of them though are mask-wearing or visitation issues that are happening on campus,” said Catholic University Dean of Students Jonathan C. Sawyer. “The way it’s generally worked is that students are reminded or encouraged to do things, but after a while when you know you’ve reminded the same person multiple times, eventually someone will document it and there will be a conversation with that person… These conversations really help because then students begin to understand the ‘why’ of all this.”

The pledge also limits the number of individuals for “non-academic” in-person social gatherings to ten people. This includes off-campus gatherings. 

“You’re really not supposed to have more than ten people,” Sawyer said. “The social gatherings should be less than ten people and they should be socially distanced, wearing face coverings, things like that.”

Dean Sawyer said that he did not anticipate any further changes to the ten-person gathering limit any time this semester. On March 17, a D.C. Mayor’s order increased the capacity of outdoor gatherings to 50 individuals, while the capacity of indoor gatherings remains at ten individuals. 

Media and communication studies senior Sarah Campbell expressed her appreciation for the guidelines set in place by the Office of Dean of Students, but disappointed in the lack of recognition by the university in the students’ efforts. 

“In regards to the Cardinals Care Pledge, I think that the University is doing the best that it can in concerns to limiting any future COVID outbreaks,” Campbell said. “After working with students and staff in the classroom, I’ve seen both sides making an effort to keep everyone safe. I’ve noticed that commonly used facilities, such as the DuFour Center, are being cleaned regularly and students have been abiding by the Cardinals Care Pledge. I’m disappointed that the student’s actions to follow the Pledge have not been entirely recognized and taken into consideration for future events, such as graduation in the spring.”

There is no information yet as to whether or not the same restrictions will remain in place for the upcoming summer or fall semesters. For more information on official university COVID-19 guidelines, please contact the Office of the Dean of Students.

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