Students ignore social distancing measures, don’t face consequences

MUPD+received+dozens+of+calls+about+large+gatherings+over+the+weekend.%0A%0APhoto+courtesy+of+Erin+Cook

MUPD received dozens of calls about large gatherings over the weekend. Photo courtesy of Erin Cook

Even amid a pandemic, students are finding ways to party.

Several members of the Marquette community saw a large gathering near 17th St. and Kilbourn Ave. Aug. 22. Those there wore coordinated white shirts, showing that the party was clearly planned.

“We haven’t even started school yet,” Erin Cook, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said. “Nice weather is not an excuse to go outside and disregard health guidelines.”

Cook drove by the party and said she was disgusted that students would choose to gather. When she first saw the gathering, she shouted out of her window, then parked the car to get out to record what was happening. She said the students she confronted seemed completely unbothered.

Cook decided to take a video of what she saw. She then picked up the phone and called Marquette University Police Department to report the party.

“After I took the video, I immediately called the MUPD nonemergency number,” Cook said. “They didn’t seem like they were going to do anything, didn’t give reassurance that somebody was on their way. They just asked for my name and phone number and said, ‘Thank you for reporting (the incident)’.”

Cook said she didn’t know where she stood on expectations of the Marquette community, but she wasn’t expecting anything of that caliber.

Jeff Kranz, assistant chief of police of MUPD, said the department received over a dozen calls this past weekend regarding outdoor gatherings.

Kranz said that MUPD’s first objective is to educate students about the significant health and safety risks large gatherings pose to the entire campus community, as well as dispersing the gatherings in a timely manner.

“Students who host these parties are in violation of the Marquette Student Code of Conduct, and they are (…) subject to disciplinary action based on that policy,” he said in an email.

Additionally, Kranz said that the city ordinance authorizes the commissioner of health and police officers to issue citations to those who willfully violate or obstruct the execution of an order issued under a chapter in the Wisconsin Statutes.

“It further provides a forfeiture of $500 for violating this ordinance,” Kranz said in an email. “Following this interaction, the MUPD officers will also forward the name of the resident(s) to the Office of Student Development for possible student conduct action.”

Other universities are punishing students who break health guidelines. Purdue has suspended students who have attended gatherings.

Panagiota Markakos, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, saw the party on others’ Snapchat stories and she said she was shocked and disappointed when she saw it in person.

“My friend had called the MUPD nonemergency number,” she said. “They told us that they were going to send dispatch over to take a look. We never received a call back from them but it didn’t look like they had come to do anything about it.”

Markakos said there should be some disciplinary repercussions for students who gather and that a “little slap on the wrist” isn’t sufficient.

“Suspension is a good consideration,” she said. “If this continues, classes will be put online in two weeks … I just hope that mistakes like this aren’t done again.”

Other institutions, like Purdue University, have taken these measures.

Cook said that she heard about the party earlier in the day when a friend’s roommate heard the noise and called MUPD. She said MUPD cleared the original party, which she said had around 80 attendees, but that about 50 came back half an hour after being told to leave.

This was the largest gathering Cook has seen. She said she has seen groups of five to 10 people gathered without masks in backyards.

Markakos said that it is very important that students wear masks, maintain social distance and not get into big groups. She said that students have to do this not just for themselves but for the surrounding community.

“Everybody talks about the ‘Marquette bubble’ and how these so-and-so blocks are Marquette,” Cook said. “But we definitely have to think about the Milwaukee community … (people) have to think about Black and Brown families in the area who they are affecting by not wearing a mask and not social distancing.”

Kranz said he hopes to see the number of gatherings decline in the coming days and weeks.

“Everyone must do their part to help slow the spread of the coronavirus and keep our campus community safe and healthy,” he said in an email. “We know students want an in-person college experience — to continue to offer that, we must be mindful of the extraordinary risks posed by large gatherings.”

This story was written by Shir Bloch and Alexa Jurado. They can be reached at shir.bloch@marquette.edu and alexa.jurado@marquette.edu.