CHICAGO - On Thursday, Loyola University announced that the institution will not be hosting students in on-campus residence halls due to COVID-19 until "conditions are favorable."
"Like you, we hoped the trajectory of the virus would subside over the summer. In fact, it grew stronger," said Loyola President Jo Ann Rooney in a letter to the community.
Rooney said that 700 of Loyola's residents would be coming from "hot spot" areas, which means they would have to begin the semester under a two-week quarantine due to Chicago's Emergency Travel Order.
Additionally, Rooney stated that public health officials have also noted that the virus spreads faster in residential settings.
"With predictions of increased outbreaks in the coming months, and early reports of COVID-19 clusters at other higher education institutions, we simply cannot put our on-campus residential students in harm’s way and risk further disruption to them and their families if they needed to move home mid-semester because of an outbreak in one of our residence halls or as a result of the state and city reverting back to Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois reopening plan," the letter states.
For the safety of students, faculty and staff, Rooney says this is the most "reasonable path" at this time.
The full letter can be found below:
"Dear Loyola Community,
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented all of us with unexpected challenges and many difficult decisions. Like you, we face these circumstances with determination, but recognize the need for our plans to remain flexible as conditions change. The source of our resolve in these times is staying true to our Jesuit, Catholic mission while abiding by our responsibilities inherent in living cura personalis—caring for the whole person. Thank you for your ongoing patience, support, and understanding as we do what is right and in the best interest of the Loyola University Chicago community in facing the challenges of this pandemic together.
From the start, our top priority has been the health, safety, and well-being of our students, faculty, staff, and broader community. Evaluating current health conditions, and factoring for uncertainty in the months ahead, has led us to make the very tough decision to suspend plans to host students in on-campus residence halls until conditions are favorable. For those who were eager to reside in on-campus housing, you will receive another email from Residence Life shortly with more details and answers to your immediate questions.
Like you, we hoped that the trajectory of the virus would subside over the summer. In fact, it grew stronger. In July, the City of Chicago enacted a responsible solution to the growing pandemic. In implementing the City’s Emergency Travel Order of July 6, at present 700 of our residents coming from “hot spot” areas would have to begin the semester under a two-week quarantine. Beyond the complex logistics of caring for this many quarantined students, public health experts indicate that the virus spreads faster in residential, high-congregate settings. With predictions of increased outbreaks in the coming months, and early reports of COVID-19 clusters at other higher education institutions, we simply cannot put our on-campus residential students in harm’s way and risk further disruption to them and their families if they needed to move home mid-semester because of an outbreak in one of our residence halls or as a result of the state and city reverting back to Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois reopening plan. This is the most responsible path forward in these uncertain times.
We know that this decision and the timing of this announcement are very difficult, especially for our students and their families looking forward to an on-campus experience. Taking this next step to further de-densify our campus and limit disruptions to academic progress was only made after careful review, scenario planning, and prayerful discernment. Our Chicago-area campuses will be open, with limitations, for the fall 2020 semester according to our Return to Campus guidelines.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to close our residence halls and move to online instruction this past March, the Loyola community has done a remarkable job of adapting and pivoting. As we begin a new academic year and welcome our new Ramblers, we are called more than ever to maintain our sense of excitement for what we will learn, the connections we will make, and the experiences we will have. We remain committed to keeping our community together and creating new opportunities for students and faculty to deepen connections in smaller groups online until we can gather in larger groups in person. We also have taken our learnings from last spring semester and months of summer preparation to continue to deliver a top-quality Jesuit, Catholic education and provide an engaging student experience.
Our faculty and staff have worked tirelessly to prepare our campuses and classes for the fall semester, in spite of the circumstances. More than 1,000 faculty have completed additional workshops to reimagine their courses for online delivery and incorporate strategies that have proven to engage online learners effectively. As a recognized leader in online education—ranked eighth nationally by U.S. News and World Report for our online bachelor’s programs—we can now adopt best practices University-wide. To learn more about our online education and student support services, please join us this Sunday, August 9, at 6:00 p.m. Central time for our Academic Experience webinar. We also remain committed to keeping the Rambler spirit at the heart of our Loyola community active and engaged, starting with virtual Welcome Week events. For more information, please visit our Return to Campus website, continue to watch for our emails, check our websites regularly, and send us your questions at covid-19support@LUC.edu.
We, like you, look forward to returning to on-campus residence and predominantly in-person instruction when conditions allow. The decision made today is a difficult one for many reasons, and not without significant revenue implications for the University. However, we will not jeopardize the health of our students and community, or lessen our commitment to academic quality and student engagement, for financial reasons.
As we face these challenges together, let us remember that Loyola is not merely a campus, but a collective of hearts sharing common values. We are Loyola, bound together by our Jesuit values of compassion, adaptability, excellence, imagination, and social justice. Let us continue onward, together, to follow our 150-year calling and emerge from this moment stronger, closer, and even more united as one Rambler family."