Student Life and COVID-19 Policies during the Fall 2021 Semester

Image Courtesy of Catholic University Communications

By Anna Harvey

At The Catholic University of America’s annual Mass of the Holy Spirit at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, University President John Garvey welcomed students on returning back to campus, after COVID-19 sent upperclassmen home for nearly a year. 

“Today we begin another semester at Catholic University, this time in person,” Garvey said. “And my advice to you is this: cherish the real things, find the beauty in them.”

Over the first week of classes, students eagerly followed Garvey’s advice. For the first time in over a year, campus was packed with students rushing between classes and reuniting with friends. The residence halls likewise returned to their usual capacity of students, having held only one student per room the previous spring semester. 

With the introduction of the new Delta variant, however, the University continues to uphold safety protocols within the residence halls as well as mandate specific visitation limitations on a temporary basis.

In particular, keeping with the District of Columbia’s mask mandate, the University requires students to wear masks in all indoor locations, including residence halls. Moreover, the University mandates a visitation limitation policy for the first few weeks of the semester. The policy will be implemented in three phases, with Phase I extending from the beginning of the semester to Sunday September 12, Phase II extending from September 13-19, and Phase III extending from September 20 to the end of the semester. During Phase I, all students—whether vaccinated or unvaccinated—who live in a particular residence hall may not visit each others’ rooms in that hall or visit in the hall’s lounges. During both Phases I and II, students from different residence halls may not visit each others’ residences. After Phase II, during Phase III, visitation between dorms returns to normal, and students may sign in one guest at a time. Visitation hours will remain the same, with Sunday – Thursday from 9am – midnight, and Friday – Saturday from 9am – 2am.

Similar to COVID-19 policies last academic year, Catholic University will not be allowing overnight guests or guests who do not attend the University to visit residence halls for the entire semester. 

During the first few weeks of the semester, while many students may have questions or concerns about their rooms, the Office of Housing Services advises students to wait a few weeks before submitting concerns. 

“Students who are experiencing difficulties in their current room assignment are encouraged to talk to their Resident Assistant about their concerns and review possible solutions,” the Office said. “If the student wishes to request a different assignment, they should submit the Room Change Request Form available on the Housing Services website.”  

Another question circulating the University student body concerns whether the University will continue to require juniors to live on campus. With residence halls’ social distancing requirements last spring hindering upperclassmen’s move back onto campus, many then-sophomores and juniors moved into apartments off-campus. With the return to normal capacity, however, some juniors and sophomores question whether the on-campus mandate will continue in the future. The Office of Housing Services confirmed that students will continue to live on campus through the completion of their junior year. 

Admissions counselor Jakob Rosario informed that on University tours, Cardinal Ambassadors will continue to market the three-year residency requirement. He explained that the policy serves as “a safety net for families [and students] who might feel it’s a struggle to find close housing that fits their budget or feel comfortable with having housing on a private campus that’s close to their studies and student life.”

Cardinal Ambassador Zoriana Moulton discussed her methods for marketing the University and their housing policies to families and potential students on University tours.

“There was so much excitement from prospective students and families this summer,” Moulton said. “They were able to see dorm rooms, which most schools were not showing. The mask mandate changed a few times throughout the summer. However, prospective students and families were very compliant with what was necessary to see the school. They understand that we are taking our time to show them our beautiful university and that we are trying to keep our community as well as the Brookland community safe.” 

While the University has stated that it will comply with the DC mask mandates, it is unclear as to how long the mask mandates will continue. Likewise, while guests who do not attend the University are barred from dorm visitation in the fall semester, it is unclear as to whether this policy will be enforced during the spring semester of 2022. 

Nearly all students, however, state they are willing to comply with the mandates in order to continue in-person instruction and living on campus. 

“We will keep abiding by mask mandates,” Moulton said, “if it gives us the ability to show off our love for Catholic University.”

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