Residential hall policies that prevent non-student guests should be changed

Aimee Barrera, Reporter

A new guest policy was added to the student handbook on Aug. 26, 2021. It states that, “Non-students and other guests are not permitted inside residential buildings at this time.”

There’s a double standard of who can and cannot come on to campus and residential buildings. I believe that the residence life policy of not allowing non-students in residential buildings should be changed. 

Director of Housing Operations for California Lutheran University Caitlin Hodges, who is part of the conduct team that gives recommendations for university policy said in an email interview, “maintaining a stricter guest policy this year helps reduce the number of potential COVID exposures on-campus, reduces the risk of students having to quarantine or isolate.” 

“Our plan is to return to our pre-COVID guest policy in the future, but the timing of when that will happen will depend on COVID safety concerns,” Hodges said.

Junior Elisa Zody has lived on-campus since her first year and expressed the frustration that comes with wanting to have friends at her dorm but not being allowed to.

“It is hard not being able to have friends come stay, like when I’m going to an event with friends, it’s nice to have them come over and get ready,” Zody said.

Although there might be a stricter guest policy to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission, not allowing non-students in resident buildings doesn’t necessarily mean that the risk is lower.

Students who live on-campus aren’t isolating themselves from non-students. They go to work outside of campus, travel out of town on the weekends, meet up with non-student family and friends or go to events outside of campus; they haven’t stopped living life. 

As long as students continue to go out and come into contact with non-students, they still run the risk of exposing themselves and their roommates to COVID-19. Truly the only way to avoid non-student and student transmission would be to completely isolate students.

The good news is that students don’t have to completely isolate themselves because data from Cal Lutheran’s KNOW webpage shows that the protective measures the community has taken are protecting us from contracting and transmitting COVID.

An update was posted to the site on Sept. 18 in regards to 12 individuals who tested positive for COVID-19, which stated that, “The lack of community transmission can at least partly be attributed to the high vaccination rate on campus, with 97% of staff and faculty and 95% of students (including all undergraduate, graduate, and professionals students who are attending in-person classes) fully vaccinated.”  

According to the KNOW webpage’s COVID-19 dashboard, which is updated every Monday, there have been a total of 27 cases on campus since Aug. 26, 2021.The data provided by Cal Lutheran shows that the COVID-19 mask policy, testing protocols and health checks put in place are working, and there is a lack of community transmission.

If these steps and protocols are working in stopping the spread of COVID-19, why not have non-student guests follow them so they can be allowed to enter residential buildings?

Director of Residence Life Chris Paul said in an email interview that we cannot use these policies to monitor non-student and guests visiting students because of mask monitoring in residence halls.

“This would be very difficult on the Resident Assistants and staff to monitor. The Residence Life staff continues to have to monitor masking in the residence halls and to add these layers would become very burdensome on the RAs,” Paul said.

Hodges and Paul both said that although the institution can require vaccination status and testing for members of the campus community, they cannot ensure that non Cal Lutheran guests meet the vaccine requirement or participate in routine testing.

Cal Lutheran hosted Homecoming Weekend from Oct. 22 to Oct. 24, which was one of their biggest fundraisers of the year. The university invited non-CLU students such as alumni, faculty, staff and student families and donors to campus. 

For Homecoming Weekend, there were a variety of scheduled events that non-students were able to attend such as the Homecoming Block Party, Loop da Lu 5K, Homecoming football game, and Alumni Improv Show.

The Alumni Improv Show held inside the Preus-Brandt Forum required guests to present either a Cal Lutheran ID or proof of vaccination in order to attend the event, which something that Hodges previously said could not be assured.

Cal Lutheran also has a visitor health check set up that asks non-student visitors to verify their full name, contact information, symptoms, and whether or not they are vaccinated.

The visitor health check was also used for the Homecoming football game in order to verify that non-students met the requirements to enter. QR codes were set up outside the stadium for visitors to fill out and proof of completion granted access into the stadium.

The institution can find a way to host non-students for money-making events but can’t find a solution to allow paying students to safely have non-students visit them in residential buildings. 

Although there seems to be hesitancy from residence life towards changing the non-student guest policy in residential buildings, students can make their opinions on this matter known by talking to the ASCLU executive board during board meetings.

Associated Students of California Lutheran University Government President Josh Gatison said in an email interview that the senate and program boards are “always open to the public and welcome students to stop by and talk.”

“Student voice and opinion is a necessity for this campus and students can always use petitions as a way to gauge just how passionate students are about certain topics,” Gatison said.