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Saint Mary’s students express disappointment with updated COVID-19 policies

| Thursday, September 2, 2021

After two semesters of dining on opposite sides of Plexiglas, logging into online classes and spending each morning taking a daily health survey, many Saint Mary’s students looked forward to returning to campus this fall with hopes of returning to at least partial normalcy. 

Many were disappointed. 

In an email from the Saint Mary’s College Student Affairs Office on Aug. 13, the College’s fall restrictions were outlined.

“Our goal has been to create a fall semester that is full of the typical activities and traditions of the season, while continuing to consider CDC and Indiana Department of Health guidelines,” the email said. 

Some of the notable updates cited in the email included the College welcoming visitors to campus again, no longer requiring the daily health survey, classrooms and common areas returning to normal capacity, lifting all dining hall restrictions and eliminating the option of remote classes. However, some restrictions from last year remained in place. 

Saint Mary’s students, faculty and staff have access to residence hall common areas and rooms. Guests are not allowed in residence halls or in rooms, including tri-campus community members, except during move-in,” the email said.

Similar to last year, tri-campus and off-campus visitors are not welcome in residence hall rooms. This semester, visitors are not allowed in residence hall common areas despite being welcome in visitor’s lounges just months prior. Additionally, all students are required to wear a mask in the classroom regardless of vaccination status.

Following the email, students began expressing their concerns about inconsistencies in the College’s expectations. 

I feel that the restrictions are unfair. The college has enforced that every Saint Mary’s girl get the COVID vaccine to return to campus. Notre Dame has done the same with their students. Masks are not enforced outside, they are not enforced in the dining hall, students can now serve themselves,” sophomore Angelina Balderas said. 

Balderas isn’t the only student who feels this way. 

“We’re allowed to be in close contact with others outside and in the dining halls, but we can’t have anyone in our private spaces unmasked or masked,” sophomore Aaliyah Jones said. 

After hearing that other students agreed that the policies were inconsistent, Jones started a petition urging the College to remove the residence hall restrictions across campus. 

“It’s essential for us to be able to have guests in our dorm rooms like a regular year. With the restrictions, the college faces the risk of mental health issues being brought on to students, students moving off-campus, and decreased participation in Saint Mary’s events. The restrictions won’t have much of an effect as all the SMC students will go to Notre Dame,” the petition reads. 

Nearly 700 students, parents and community members have signed the petition as of Wednesday. 

Jones also noted that professors are not required to wear masks, but students always are, despite likely sharing the same vaccination status. 

Balderas said she signed the petition because she wants to return to the valuable education that she is paying for. However, she understands some of the guidelines and appreciates that certain restrictions have been lifted.

“I appreciate that we’re able to serve ourselves in the dining hall, and I think that in-person classes are so much better than online,” Balderas said. 

Jones also said the testing policies are fair.

“I think that the entry tests for unvaccinated students is a great way to start the year, it keeps everyone safe. The weekly screening tests are also understandable.”

However, to Jones, the positives of the new policies do not outweigh the negative effects they may have on students. 

“It has become hard to put yourself out there and make a real connection with people, since nothing has been face-to-face. Nothing is personal anymore,” Jones said. “The guest policy only makes that worse. Until that changes, campus will feel the same.” 

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About Veronica Navarro

Veronica Navarro is a junior at Notre Dame from South Bend, IN currently serving as The Observer's Social Media Editor. Navarro is also a member of the Notre Dame Mock Trial team and a resident of Flaherty Hall.

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