ROGERS PARK — With Loyola University moving to open more of its campuses this spring, some Rogers Park neighbors worry that students — some already partying through the pandemic — could pose a health risk to the neighborhood.
After a mostly remote start to the school year, Loyola announced plans to reopen more of its campuses in the spring semester. Paired with more robust coronavirus testing, Loyola will host around 10 percent of its classes in-person and open up dorms and gyms on a limited basis.
The move has some Rogers Park residents worried that increased student activity — both on and off campus — could hurt the neighborhood’s efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Loyola officials held a community meeting in late January where neighbors expressed concerns about the reopening and its impact on Rogers Park. Officials at the meeting explained the health and safety protocols for reopening, as well as the efforts the school is making to curb students’ flouting of city health code orders.
One of the neighbors who voiced concerns at the meeting was Kat, who said her neighbors on Glenwood Avenue have dealt with next-door college “ragers” this school year.
Kat and her neighbor, Kyle, said neighboring Loyola students held sizable parties, including a Halloween get-together that spilled out into the backyard and alley. Both Kat and Kyle asked that their last names not be used for this story to avoid retribution from the school or neighbors.
“We would remind them we’re in a pandemic. But they were drunk 20-somethings, they don’t care,” Kat said. “The consequences are going to fall on our most vulnerable neighbors.”
The partying has caused Kyle, who lived in the same building as Kat, to refrain from using his backyard when students are present next door. The neighbors have even put up with a student vomiting into the building’s bushes, behavior made more problematic because of the pandemic, Kyle said.
“It’s happened pretty much the entire time during the pandemic,” Kyle said. Kyle moved out of the Glenwood apartment after three years in late December, when his job was relocated downstate. “It’s not just Loyola students [living here]. We still have a lot of elderly. They should know better.”
Judith Cooper, who also lives on Glenwood, said she has reached out to Ald. Maria Hadden’s (49th) office about college parties near her building.
“When the rest of us are hunkered down and following the rules, it’s a real slap in the face that these young adults from the suburbs come into our neighborhood, flout our rules, and walk loudly and drunkenly past our bedrooms at midnight,” Cooper said in an email.
As Loyola reopens, the university is working to provide students with safe social settings to help clamp down on ill-advised gatherings, said Phil Hale, vice president of government affairs for Loyola. Off-campus gatherings are the primary driver of coronavirus spread on college campuses, Hale said.
“Students of course are clamoring for social contact like we all are,” Hale said at the community meeting. “Providing students with safe, structured opportunities on campus as an alternative to off-campus gatherings has proven to be very successful.”
Students returning to campus undertake training on COVID-19 protocols, said Stacey Jaksa, director of student conduct and conflict resolution at Loyola.
If the university receives a complaint about student behavior, officials follow up with the student and sometimes bring the landlord into the conversation, Jaksa said. For repeat offenders, the university uses a combination of “disciplinary and educational outcomes” for students, she said at the community meeting.
“We don’t have a lot of students that are repeat offenders,” Jaksa said. “But if there is continual violation, those outcomes become progressively more disciplinary.”
Complaints about student partying or other disregard of coronavirus protocols should be made through the Loyola Center for Student Assistance and Advocacy or by calling 773-508-MASK.
Since July, Loyola has conducted over 24,000 coronavirus tests and has recorded 312 confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to the school’s testing dashboard. Rogers Park’s 60626 ZIP code has seen just over 3,538 Covid cases and 153 deaths since March 2020.
Given that student partying has been a problem during remote learning, Loyola can and should do more to discourage off-campus social gatherings, neighbors said.
“If they would start fining students and absentee landlords for infractions … I think we would all be better off,” Cooper said.
With Loyola situated in a dense neighborhood setting, students have many opportunities to transmit the coronavirus to their neighbors, Kat said.
“We all go to the same grocery stores,” Kat said. “It’s not being a good neighbor.”
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