Parties persist as pandemic continues

This+is+just+a+screen+grab+from+the+video+taken+by+John+Doe+of+students+gathering%2C+unmasked.++

This is just a screen grab from the video taken by John Doe of students gathering, unmasked.

Each time *John Doe steps outside of his building near 17th Street, he enters what he calls a “war zone.”

Crowds of students, mostly unmasked, gather at a house frequently to party. Though crowd sizes have been down the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Doe said it didn’t stop students from attending a large party for a second National Marquette Day March 6.

“I was astonished to see so many people and not a single person was masked,” Doe said.

As he watched a densely packed group continue to gather, Doe said he decided to take out his phone to capture a video of the crowds, in hopes that the students would see someone taking a video and would then disperse. Doe also wanted to have on record what he had been seeing often.

The video shows about 100 students, donned in Marquette blue and gold, partying hours before the last Marquette men’s basketball home game March 6. The game was at 8 p.m.

“Every time that happens, I make sure all the windows are sealed, because a lot of students are coming right by our door … we don’t leave the house,” Doe said.

Doe has requested to be anonymous for ensuring protection of his privacy. The Marquette Wire has honored that request.

When Doe took the video, stepping outside for about a minute, he said he wore two masks and a face shield visor to protect himself from anything that may be in the air.

“It’s just scary for us. We’ve made it so far, this whole year, I feel like we have been extremely fortunate up to this point that neither myself or my fiancé has gotten COVID,” Doe said.

Doe’s fiancé is an immunocompromised diabetic with asthma and a heart murmur.

“We’re almost there, we’re almost there, so when this happens within two weeks of (fiancé’s) first scheduled COVID shot, it’s frustrating,” Doe said.

Just one day prior to the party, the third floor of O’Donnell Hall, located on 18th Street, was instructed to quarantine at a near campus location due to a cluster of COVID-19 cases.

On one hand, Doe said he sympathizes with the students and understands the impulse of wanting to be out and about with people, but at the same time, he said it’s distressing regarding the level of selfishness.

“We just hope to get through it here,” Doe said.

Kevin Conway, a university spokesperson, said students who feel unsafe in a situation where a gathering has grown larger than they had expected or people are not wearing masks should remove themselves from the situation immediately.

Conway points to the university’s policy set in place for those who see a large gathering of people not wearing masks, where it states, “for immediate response to a gathering (10 or more), please call the Marquette University Police Department non-emergency line at (414)288- 6100.”

However, the policy states that MUPD does not respond to calls of one or two people not wearing masks.

“The Marquette University Police Department has created an educational flyer that will be distributed when officers are dispatched to a party or gathering, and the officers will have additional masks on-hand that will be distributed to attendees,” the policy states. The educational flyer provides tips to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and what consequences could occur if health and public safety guidelines are not followed.

The policy also states that those who host parties are in violation of the Marquette Student Code of Conduct and students will be subject to disciplinary action.

Marquette University Police Department Assistant Chief Jeff Kranz said MUPD responded to an increased number of party related calls that weekend.

“These were called in by neighbors, students or violations observed by officers,” Kranz said in an email.

Kranz did not specify how many calls MUPD responded to but said a number of citations were issued related to behavior at house parties and students were referred to student conduct.

MUPD Police Chief Edith Hudson said her team will continue to enforce gathering limits and other violations. 

“The Marquette University Police Department reminds students that the COVID-19 pandemic is still a very real threat to the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff, as well as the surrounding community,” Hudson said in an email. “It’s important that we take this situation seriously, which means avoiding large gatherings like parties, whatever the occasion.” 

Erin Cook, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said she did not feel comfortable with MUPD’s response to a previous party she called to report earlier this year.

Cook had called to report a large gathering of students after a friend had already called to report the same gathering. She said even pre-COVID-19 times, this party would have been looked at as huge.

After MUPD first appeared, the students dispersed. But shortly after, the students were back to party, and that’s when Cook decided to call. As she waited for MUPD to arrive, she said she did not see an officer return and the party continued.

“I was disappointed. We see a lot of patrol cars around, but it seems like they’re never at the right place at the right time,” Cook said.

Cook said she wishes MUPD would patrol the campus more.

“I see them in very specific spots throughout the day, and I’m like, ‘what are you going to do in the Sendik’s parking lot?’ when there are actually things going on,” Cook said.

Cook said she does not think MUPD has the coverage that they require for things that are happening.

Doe said he did not know MUPD had the authority to break up parties, therefore, he has not called MUPD to report the parties he has seen.

As students, faculty and staff are becoming more eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, Conway said students should be abiding by the Community Pledge, which outlines community standards and expected behaviors to minimize the spread of COVID-19, and those in violation will be referred to the student conduct process. 

However, Conway said students have been diligent in mitigation efforts. 

“The Marquette campus community has demonstrated a diligent commitment to protecting themselves and others through the continued wearing of masks, social distancing measures and avoidance of large gatherings and parties,” Conway said in an email.

Experts estimate that herd immunity, which occurs when enough people become immune to a disease to make its spread unlikely, would require around 80-90% of the population to have COVID-19 immunity. However, only around 10% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, making herd immunity not yet attainable. 

According to the Center for Disease Control, only 12% of Wisconsin’s population has received both doses of the vaccine; this is 1% higher than the percentage fully vaccinated in Illinois. 

For Doe, he said the fault lies within Marquette’s administration for bringing students back.

“I hesitate to blame the students because the administrators were the ones who made the decision to invite people from all over the country to come back to campus, that was their decision,” Doe said.

In his own mind, Doe said he holds the administrators more accountable, and the leaders in the United States, for the “crisis we have been dragged through.”

Yet, he said students are not exempt from all responsibility. Overall, Doe said he just feels like there is no level of accountability or interest in taking responsibility.

“You just throw your hands up and give up,” Doe said.

Doe said he looks at the actions that have been taken by the university in order to keep everyone safe, but said the university’s decision to open up the school invited a war-like environment. He said he’s voiced his concerns with the university.

“What people tell me is bull—-, 99% of the time, especially people in leadership. I know it’s bull—-, I take it as principle that it’s bull—- and it doesn’t match up with their actions. I look at their actions and that’s what I judge, ” Doe said.

Doe said he feels as though there have been no steps taken to address the depths of the effects partying has on the most vulnerable in the community.

At this point, Doe said his remarks feel like long, stressed out rants with no help in sight.

This story was written by Natallie St. Onge and Claire Driscol. They can be reached at natallie.stonge@marquette.edu and claire.driscol@marquette.edu.