No-guest policy reversed in on-campus housing

Photo of the University Village housing, with red-brick buildings and a green lawn.
USC Housing will allows residents to bring two guests into on-campus residential building, if guests follow coronavirus guidelines. (Sarah Cortina | Daily Trojan)

The Office of Residential Education will allow residents to bring two guests into on-campus residential spaces beginning Oct. 18, reversing the “no-guest” policy in effect since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The policy change, announced by the  department’s Senior Director Grant Burlew Wednesday in an email to residential assistants obtained by the Daily Trojan, will only apply to USC students.

The decision comes as the positivity rate on campus continues to decline — currently .1% for students and .2% for employees, a decrease from a semester high of .4% among students and 1% among employees. 

Guests will be required to show their Trojan Checks to enter residence halls, and residents must consult with roommates and suitemates for overnight guests. Guests will also not be allowed to stay for more than three nights in a row. 

In a student media briefing Tuesday, Chief Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman said the Office of Residential Education would make a “significant change” to USC Housing guidelines by Oct. 18. 

In a previous media briefing Aug. 26, Van Orman said the no-guest policy was a regulation from the Los Angeles County of Public Health rather than the University. A spokesperson for the department, in a statement to the Daily Trojan, denied that USC’s policy was a directive from L.A. County. 

In a media briefing Sept. 28, Van Orman said the no-guest policy was a recommendation from the Center for Disease Control, and not because of local health regulations. 

The no-guest policy received some criticism among students who cited the contrast between the strict housing rules and crowded Welcome Week events.

Parker Weiss, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering who lives at USC Village, said the new policy will “make life on campus way more normal.”

“A lot of my friends are off campus [and] didn’t have any restrictions, all of the guys that are on campus are like ‘This is still kind of like a weird situation to be in,’” Weiss said. “But I think this helps to return to normal a lot.”

Ani Sarkisyan, a senior majoring in psychology, has worked as a resident assistant for two years. With the no-guest policy in place, her job is much easier because there have been less issues with resident write-ups and parties, she said.

At the same time, Sarkisyan said she believes the updated policy will make socializing easier for freshmen. 

“Especially for freshmen living in apartment-style housing, it’s so hard for them to meet people and interact,” Sarkisyan said. “So I’m kind of happy that it happened. Of course, for an RA, it’s a lot more work, but we kind of already did this before.”

Ian Cabeen, a sophomore majoring in psychology who lives at USC Village and is Weiss’s roommate, said, with the no-guest policy in place, he paid for Lyft’s to friends’ homes because he could not have people over in his apartment. 

“It’s gonna be really nice for us living in the Village, especially because we have spent so much money Lyfting around and going to other places to hang out with people,” Cabeen said. “We want to have people over and hang out at our house.”

In the email to resident assistants, Burlew said residents should meet with roommates and suitemates to “discuss what their expectations will be around shared space” in light of the new policy.

While Sarkisyan said she imagines there could be conflict for roommates who have different levels of comfort surrounding the coronavirus, the restriction of guests to USC students who have high rates of vaccination will help, she said.

“Everyone has to be OK with [having guests over] … Not everyone is as comfortable with COVID,” Sarkisyan said. “[But] the guest policy isn’t even as it was before. Before you could bring in anyone, but now it’s just like USC students. Most USC students are vaccinated, so I feel like USC did that on purpose.”

Gus Lanser, a resident assistant in McCarthy and senior majoring in chemical engineering, said he was “positively surprised” by the change because he can have his friends over and so his residents can have a better freshman experience. 

“During my freshman year hanging out with people from different dorms — the impact that had on my freshman year experience,” Lanser said. “And I really went for my residents to be able to experience that.”

Lanser also said before the semester started, he met with residents to discuss their comfort with having guests, thinking about both the guest policy at the time and future changes. Because of that, he said, he “doesn’t foresee any issues.”