Kat Namon ’22
Daniel J. Nesbitt ’22
The Tripod has learned that the Psi Upsilon fraternity has been issued a mandatory quarantine for a total of seven days, as of Wednesday, Sept. 23. The mandatory quarantine was issued following the increase in coronavirus cases on campus in mid-September, along with the positive test results of six members of the fraternity itself and subsequent issuing of a heightened alert level on campus in which the College alert level was raised to “yellow.”
According to a communication to members of the fraternity that the Tripod independently reviewed, members “that are cleared from isolation do not need to quarantine or get tested.” This course of action is similar to how the College responded Sept. 15 when some students in Jones Hall were quarantined as an entire floor. The Tripod spoke with President of Psi Upsilon Eric Thronson ’21, who declined to comment on the situation. According to an anonymous member of the fraternity, “the brothers are adhering to quarantine guidelines and remain compliant with the expectations we’ve been given.”
The Tripod reached out to Dean of Students Joe DiChristina and Chief of Staff Jason Rojas for further clarification on the situation regarding members of Psi Upsilon. According to DiChristina, the situation was being monitored “as the first positive cases began to present themselves related to the organization…” and they are proceeding forward this way “out of an abundance of caution.”
He stated that the administration and testing facilities “performed dynamic testing and direct testing similar to how we managed the situation in Jones Hall, first floor.” The administration and testing staff considered that it was most important to find out which members had experienced direct, high-risk contact with any positive cases, “which allowed for a different response than a 14-day quarantine.”
DiChristina clarified that members of the fraternity are required to quarantine for seven days because it is “the necessary duration of time to obtain a second negative test result this upcoming week…” and that this “evaluation is in effort to mitigate transmission during the period of time where the potential for infectivity is highest.” In terms of the cause of this increase in cases, DiChristina assured the Tripod that Greek organizations in particular “have followed the guidelines established by the college” in that there have not been any “registered socials.”
Director of Student Life, Kathryn Wojcik declined to comment, referring the Tripod to direct all questions on the matter to DiChristina and Rojas.
According to the COVID-19 dashboard as of Monday, Sept. 28, there are six active cases, all of these cases being students and none of them employees and affiliates. DiChristina told the Tripod that this tally of active cases includes all positive cases “regardless of where they are isolating,” be it at Trinity or if the individual elects to return home. In an email sent to the community on Friday, Sept. 25, DiChristina provided an update on the campus alert level and stated that progress has been made in terms of the number of cases on campus since the heightened alert level was issued. He stated in his email that this progress is “no doubt due in large part to our collective efforts to be vigilant in following health and safety protocols and the steps we took quickly to limit the spread we were seeing in residential areas.”
DiChristina noted that many students remain in quarantine, but that some on-campus gatherings will be permitted starting Friday, Sept. 25. These permitted activities include “organized groups of limited size… 12 students outdoors and six students indoors.” Additionally, DiChristina provided an update of student violations of COVID-19 rules and regulations. He indicated that 108 students have received written warnings about COVID-19 rule violations, ranging from not wearing masks in their residence hall rooms to gathering outside in large numbers. The Tripod sought a more detailed breakdown of the 108 students who have received written warnings, however, DiChristina stated that the warnings are not tracked by class year and that “warnings are not tracked by offense type.”
In his email sent Sept. 25, DiChristina also wrote that a “small number of students have had to leave campus to complete the remainder of the semester remotely due to violations of our COVID-19 rules.” When asked precisely how many students have been forced to leave campus, DiChristina declined to provide a specific number as the College “feel[s] it’s best to acknowledge the actions of students who are showing care and concerns for each other” rather than “focus[ing] on some mistakes that have been made.” Additionally, DiChristina emphasized that with regard to disciplinary matters, “it is important that we do not publicly share information that could be personally identifiable.” According to DiChristina, those students that “were requested to learn remotely have had two violations.” He clarified that after students receive one violation, “a second will result in a removal from campus and a move to remote learning,” though it is not immediately clear whether this policy is explicitly stated in writing in the Community Contract or any other College policy.
DiChristina added that Campus Safety will “continue to monitor compliance in residence halls and around off-campus to ensure our students are adhering to the guidelines as stated in the community contract.” The email also sought “to remind students that they should only travel off campus for essential reasons” and that “students should not travel off-campus to engage in social activities (e.g., dining at a restaurant) or participate in other functions off-campus that result in potential additional exposure to COVID-19.” When asked whether the College has issued any warnings for non-essential off-campus travel, DiChristina told the Tripod that “if we were to receive reports for students traveling for non-essential reasons, we will review the matter and make a disciplinary decision.” On Aug. 4, DiChristina previously confirmed to the Tripod that the College “do[es] not have a legal basis” to restrict student travel.” He added that the College has allowed students to travel for family emergencies upon request subject to “quarantine and testing protocols upon return.”
DiChristina also referenced that Governor Ned Lamont has recently issued an executive order that states individuals who are not following the State of Connecticut’s requirements for wearing masks and socially distancing in public areas “can be fined $100.00.”
In a separate email to the campus community on Monday, Sept. 28, DiChristina announced that the campus alert level was lowered back down to “green” from “yellow” due to a declining number of active cases at Trinity and within the surrounding community. The level had been raised earlier this month in response to an uptick in cases among residence halls. DiChristina clarified that the alert level “is determined not by a single nuber, but rather by several factors” including the availability of PPE [personal protective equipment] supplies, among others. The email also announced that the COVID-19 dashboard will now be updated by 8:30 A.M. every Monday and Thursday.