‘Party patrol’ continues its work to keep campus healthy

URBANA-CHAMPAIGN, Illinois – As students return to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus for the spring semester, the University of Illinois Police Department’s “party patrol” will resume its work to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

UIPD’s party patrol is a group of Student Patrol officers and police officers who have been specially assigned to respond to calls of parties in the Campustown area. They are responsible for making sure campus community members’ social gatherings are in compliance with public health regulations and campus mandates.

Although the Illinois Department of Public Health recently upgraded Region 6 (which includes Champaign County) to Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Robert Jones reminded campus community members in a massmail last week that students are expected to engage in essential activities only until Feb. 8. Students who do not follow all COVID-related expectations face university disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.

Additionally, emergency orders limiting social gatherings to 10 or fewer people were issued by the cities of Champaign and Urbana during the Fall semester and remain in place. Party hosts who violate those ordinances are subject to fines.

For at least the first two weeks of the semester, students should limit their activities to things like attending class, purchasing groceries, going to work, engaging in individual outdoor activity, attending religious services and seeking medical attention. In-person activities that are solely social in nature – like parties – are not permitted.

The University of Illinois Police Department works closely with the Office for Student Conflict Resolution (OSCR) in cases involving students. When a police officer has contact with a student who violates COVID-related expectations, those cases are referred to OSCR for potential disciplinary action.

“Our goal is voluntary compliance, and we do not want to get police officers involved in enforcing these rules,” said U of I Police Chief Alice Cary. “If we do get calls about parties, we send our Student Patrol officers first because we feel that peer-to-peer interaction is important.”

Student patrol officers responded to dozens of complaints of parties during the Fall 2020 semester. Almost all of the time, a request from Student Patrol officer to a party host to reduce the size of the party to be in compliance with health guidelines is sufficient to remedy the situation.

“The vast majority of our students want to do the right thing, but a few maybe need a little nudge in the right direction. That’s what Student Patrol does,” Cary said. “It’s rare, but if someone absolutely refuses to comply voluntarily, that’s when our police officers will arrive to address the situation.”

A very small portion of Campustown parties during the Fall 2020 semester were either too large, or the party hosts refused to come into compliance with health codes. Those hosts were liable to receive citations for hosting a nuisance party, endangering public health or reckless conduct. If hosts received all three citations – which happened in a handful of the more egregious cases – fines were in excess of $1,300 per individual.

All told, the University of Illinois Police Department issued a total of 30 citations to 18 individuals for party-related health violations during the fall semester.