March 31, 2021
Dear Gonzaga Students:
Earlier today, you received a message from GSBA President Fese Elango, and Vice President Taylor Sipila. It is an important and courageous message, one which spoke not only from the heart but out of a deep commitment to the welfare and safety of all Gonzaga and Spokane community members. I am grateful to Fese and Taylor for speaking directly and candidly to the multiple issues, significant risks, and endangering behavior that a large number of students gathering – without masks –creates for everyone in this time that COVID rages.
Yesterday Evening’s “Spontaneous Gathering” in Logan Neighborhood
Many aspects of the spontaneous large-group gathering that erupted in the Logan Neighborhood after yesterday’s win would, under no circumstances, have been acceptable. As a community, we all want to be a part of joining in the historic celebration of our student-athletes’ accomplishments. But these are not “ordinary times.” Washington State is still in a state of emergency, with public health as a primary focus and concern. Such gatherings are unlawful and put people at risk. As previously communicated, we – along with other college and university communities – are now seeing increases in COVID infections among our students that appear to be related to the gradual reopening of businesses and recreational opportunities.
The University and its COVID Compliance hotline have received numerous emails and inquiries from concerned individuals in the wake of last evening’s gathering. The large number of reports points to the level of anxiety and stress that students, University faculty and staff, and Logan residents have about this event becoming a major locus of community infection. Further, yesterday evening there were a number of instances where students were not compliant with Campus Security and Public Safety (CSPS) or the Spokane Police Department (SPD). Three things are important to note:
- CSPS and SPD have already met to review yesterday’s gathering, evaluate response, and coordinate efforts to effectively respond to such gatherings in the future.
- The University will take action(s) in regards to students who did violate, or may have violated, the law and/or University’s Student Code of Conduct. These action(s) are identified in the Student Handbook and include various consequences including the possibility of suspension.
- Out of concern for the possibility of new COVID infections, we will be expanding our voluntary walk-in testing clinic to three days a week, beginning next week. One of the most challenging things about this virus is its asymptomatic nature and long incubation period. If you were present at the Logan gathering yesterday evening, you should self-quarantine for seven (7) days; if you develop symptoms, you are encouraged to seek support from Gonzaga’s Health and Counseling Center or another medical provider.
Request for Your Help During the NCAA Tournament
I am writing to ask directly for your help over the course of these next several days. No matter where you may be, this is an amazing time that presents an opportunity for us to be, and to reflect, the best of what it means to be a part of Gonzaga.
I ask all of us to be mindful of the fact that over the coming days, in the eyes of the local and national media, each member of our university community is representing Gonzaga University. It is a chance to highlight the very best of who we are as a university and as members of a community that genuinely care for, and about, one another. In light of this, I am specifically asking that each of us do our best to conduct ourselves in a manner that reflects the very best in ourselves, our pride in our student-athletes, and our University community.
While we are all anxious to celebrate the amazing accomplishments of the team, there is considerable risk involved in spontaneous celebrations like those that took place following yesterday’s game. These actions put fellow students, faculty and staff, our Logan Neighborhood neighbors, and the wider community at risk of COVID-19, and do not represent who we are as a community. The excitement of the moment quite simply is no excuse for unsafe behavior.
We know that this coming weekend – inclusive of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday – is a four-day weekend and many students will be spending time at home. For those who are staying in Spokane, I want to share that we are working to create on-campus opportunities at which students in Spokane can gather safely and share their support of the Men’s Basketball team. Please watch for updates very soon. In addition, you are invited to register for a virtual gathering of Zag Nation on Saturday at www.gonzaga.edu/ZagMadness.
Throughout this coming weekend, Spokane Police Department (SPD) officers, as well as our own campus security officers, will be on patrol in the neighborhood and our campus community. Law enforcement authorities will issue citations to those found violating state law and city municipal codes. If you are asked to comply with any directions given to you by University Staff, SPD, or other law enforcement or emergency personnel, please comply politely and follow any directions as given. Students found to be in violation of the law will, as always, be subject to all policies and procedures outlined in the University’s student code of conduct.
As always, our expectations of students are to be respectful of the neighborhood, its residents and to keep your fellow Zags safe. I appreciate your commitment to keep the positive momentum moving forward in order to end this academic year on an upbeat note. I am grateful that we, as a community, have an opportunity to reinforce and highlight on a national level the many ways in which we live our mission to be people for and with others every day.
Thayne M. McCulloh