The Georgetown University Student Association senate unanimously approved a resolution calling for greater transparency surrounding the university’s COVID-19 guidelines in a Feb. 7 meeting.
The university’s Community Compact was updated in January with stricter health regulations for the spring semester. On-campus students and staff and students living in the nearby neighborhoods of Georgetown, Burleith and Foxhall were required to sign the Community Compact, a set of guidelines Georgetown established last August to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The compact prohibits gatherings of 10 or more students on or near campus, requires weekly COVID-19 testing for students on campus or in the surrounding neighborhoods and outlines disciplinary measures for violating the regulations.
GUSA’s resolution urges the Office of Student Conduct to consolidate all Compact guidelines and provide clear communication to students, according to GUSA Senator Nirvana Khan (SFS ’24), who introduced the legislation.
“Basically, just asking Georgetown to do their job and be clear on community guidelines, include specifics of the policies and the Community Compact and equitably enforce noise complaints and things like that, because it’s not fair for one person to get suspended over a one-time offense and then another person gets a slap on the wrist,” Khan said at the meeting.
Last semester, many students living off campus in the surrounding neighborhoods reported unfair punishment for violations unrelated to COVID-19 regulations, such as noise complaints. These rules are enforced by the Student Neighborhood Assistance Program, a service provided by the Office of Neighborhood Life that addresses community complaints against off-campus student houses.
SNAP has focused on addressing non-COVID-19-related noise complaints rather than more pressing COVID-19 violations, which is what the resolution wants to change, according to Khan.
“You might think that most noise complaint violations come from parties, but from what I’ve heard that’s far from the case — practically every person I’ve heard who received a noise complaint got it when they were hanging out with masks on outside,” Khan said in a message to The Hoya.
SNAP has concentrated its efforts on health and safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically addressing large student gatherings and enforcing mask wearing and social distancing, according to a university spokesperson.
“We are grateful that the vast majority of Georgetown students are following public health guidance and taking care to ensure the safety of themselves and others in the community. We have been concerned about, and will continue to monitor, violations occurring with gathering size, as well as lack of mask usage and appropriate social distancing,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Punishments were further exacerbated after the university repealed its appeals process for students facing disciplinary action, according to Khan.
“Students felt this illusion kind of, because they were getting flagged when they were hanging outside with their friends,” Khan said. “They would get flagged by SNAP for noise complaints and things like that, and SNAP would just drive around and if they could hear anything then they would put sanctions even if nobody complained.”
The resolution demands the university reinstate its appeals process for students facing COVID-19-related consequences less severe than suspension.
In addition to urging greater transparency, the resolution recommends the university create incentives for students who follow guidelines and create spaces on campus that foster safe social interaction, according to Khan.
Following weeks of student and staff complaints of unsafe protocols, the resolution also asks the university to implement stricter regulations at Leo J. O’Donovan Dining Hall.
With the addition of 500 more students living on campus this semester, GUSA Senator Bella Fassett (SFS ’24), who lives on campus, says more COVID-19 precautions are necessary for the dining hall.
“I, myself, started to feel unsafe in the dining hall, with there being now at least three times the amount of people here on campus,” Fassett, who endorsed the legislation, said at the meeting. “They’ve actually recently made some changes, for COVID safety, but I still feel like there is a lot more that can be done.”
The resolution encourages the university to implement an occupancy limit in Leo’s, extend dinner hours until 8 p.m. to alleviate a dinner rush, increase signage encouraging mask wearing and social distancing and provide Leo’s workers with medical-grade masks.
According to Khan, the resolution’s goal is to increase student compliance with the university’s guidelines by clarifying, rather than lessening, any COVID-19 regulations.
“The resolution definitely doesn’t seek to take off penalties for not following COVID guidelines and it’s very clear about that,” Khan said. “There’s no chance of students following the guidelines if they don’t even know what they are.”