Xavier updates travel guidelines

Last week’s contentious policy is being adjusted with a pilot program

By Alex Budzynski, Editor-in-Chief, and Staff WRITERS Grace Hamilton and Olivia Valkner

In response to the controversial domestic travel guidelines released last Wednesday, Xavier’s COVID-19 Task Force is launching a pilot program which allows student groups to travel overnight if they are able to produce a sufficient COVID-19 risk-reduction and response plan. 

According to Saturday’s campus message, this change is intended to prevent student groups from cancelling their previously scheduled trips. 

“Student travel is an important dimension of the Xavier experience. It is also true that traveling in the context of a pandemic will require more of groups and individuals, and it will be worth it,” the message read. 

The email letter indicated that individuals and student groups would assume additional responsibilities when traveling, details of which are forthcoming. 

This update was issued in response to criticism from student groups and parents when the original travel policy was announced last week. 

“Over the past few days, many members of our community have shared their perspectives regarding the recently announced updates to the fall student group travel policy,” the message acknowledged. 

The original group travel guidelines, which remain in effect, confine overnight travel to a 35-mile radius of Xavier’s campus and restrict daily travel to a 140-mile radius. All trips outside of a 140-mile radius are banned. 

The policy announced last week also states that all participants are required to wear a mask while traveling, space out in vehicles and open windows. Vaccines are required for overnight travel, but are not required for local day trips.

The Task Force explained that Xavier does not have the capacity to support students who test positive for COVID-19 while on a non-local, overnight trip. The consequential inability to care for one student would put other students on the trip at risk. 

These restrictions are only in effect for the remainder of the fall semester and do not apply to varsity athletic teams or study abroad programs. 

These guidelines received immediate backlash from several club groups that were directly affected by the policy. The Club Baseball team was especially vocal, posting an open letter on their Instagram that received hundreds of rehsares and starting a petition that amassed more than 1,000 signatures. 

The team was scheduled to travel to Michigan this past weekend to play at Adrian College, a trip that was not in compliance with the new guidelines. The team cited that they are responsible for all travel arrangements themselves and receive little to no assistance from the university. 

“Responsibility is important but this is unreasonable to shut down travel for all organizations… As you evaluate the implementation of your new guidelines, we encourage you to take a step back and look at the greater picture,” the letter said. 

This weekend’s update shared that groups which were slated to travel this past weekend, would be granted an exception, meaning the Club Baseball was able to drive to Michigan after all. 

Other student groups were equally affected by the new guidelines, including Mock Trial which recently cancelled their tournaments at Michigan State and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. 

“We’ve obviously had some discussions because we’ve had to find alternatives to our travel plans, and we’ve also discussed it in terms of whether we think it’s necessarily fair that we don’t get to travel to these places,” Mock Trial Treasurer Ethan Hall said. 

“The most frustrating factor for us is that Mock Trial isn’t a club that just prepares our members for competition right now, but gives them skills that they can use 10 or 20 years in the future,” Hall continued. “When we’re not allowed to travel to our competitions, we essentially take all of that away.”

Further updates about the specifics of the pilot program are expected to be announced this week.