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Friday December 3rd

'Living on campus will be very different': Carolina Housing makes changes for fall

<p>Taylor Hall, also known as Ram Village 4 is a residence hall that is located on South Campus behind the first-year dorm, Hinton James. This is one of the five buildings that makes up the Ram Village Community.</p>
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Taylor Hall, also known as Ram Village 4 is a residence hall that is located on South Campus behind the first-year dorm, Hinton James. This is one of the five buildings that makes up the Ram Village Community.

Update 12:56 p.m.: All residential students may cancel their housing contract for any reason and without penalty prior to 5 p.m. on Aug. 7, UNC Media Relations said in an email. The original article has been updated to reflect this deadline. 

If a student has a course schedule of all remote instruction and notifies Carolina Housing before Aug. 16 —the fall 2020 late registration deadline — the student will have no cancellation costs or penalty and will receive a prorated credit.

After Aug. 7 or following move-in, a student-initiated contract cancellation will be accompanied by the standard cancellation costs, and that individual student will receive a prorated credit. 


Updated 1:43 p.m.: Executive Director of Carolina Housing Allan Blattner said at a media availability Thursday that if a student's course availability changes to all-online after Aug. 7, Carolina Housing will cancel their housing contract with no penalty.

"All they need to do is make themselves known to us and we will take care of that for them, because clearly we want to give them an opportunity to reevaluate as their schedule changes," Blattner said. 

To cancel the contract, the student can call or email Carolina Housing or access the resident student portal. 


Updated 8:21 p.m.: Carolina Housing extended the deadline to cancel housing contracts to Aug. 7 and prior to moving in, according to an email to on-campus residents from Carolina Housing sent July 31. 

Penalties will apply to any cancellations after Aug. 7 or after move in, the email states. 


Students living on campus will begin returning to campus in less than 10 days as FDOC approaches on Aug. 10.

Carolina Housing has implemented a number of changes to housing operations that will alter the on-campus experience this fall in response to the COVID-19 situation across the state, according to an email sent Thursday from University leaders to students with on-campus housing contracts. 

The deadline to cancel housing contracts for any reason without penalty has been extended to Aug. 7.

“Living on campus will be very different this fall, and we believe it is important for you to make the most informed housing decision that suits your individual circumstances,” the email stated. 

Carolina Housing Executive Director Allan Blattner said in an email statement via UNC Media Relations that more than 1,200 students have canceled their housing contracts since May 1.  Blattner said full occupancy in residence halls this fall is not expected, due to the number of cancellations already received and more that may occur, as well as no new housing applications being accepted at this time.

Here's a breakdown of the new regulations, as well as some concerns from residential advisers.

Move-in

Move-in will occur through pre-scheduled two-hour appointments from Aug. 3-9 to encourage physical distancing. 

Before coming to campus, the Carolina Housing Move-In Guide states all individuals should check for COVID-19 symptoms using UNC’s health screening checklist. 

The Move-In Guide also outlines the following rules for move-in:

  • Students are allowed to bring a maximum of three helpers to assist them. 
  • Residents moving in and all individuals assisting will be required to wear masks for the duration of the move-in process.
  • The elevator capacity during move-in is four people and limited to the resident and their move-in helpers.
  • Move-in helpers should leave as soon as possible once student belongings have been brought to their rooms. 
  • UNC Transportation and Parking staff will be using contactless move-in parking assistance by logging license plates and the time of entry as cars enter parking lots to monitor the 40-minute unloading time limit.

The ideal placement of furniture to allow for maximum physical distancing in each room will be predetermined by Carolina Housing staff, according to the move-in guide. Blattner said in an email statement that the recommended furniture guidelines will be provided to residents before move-in, but students will be allowed to arrange the furniture in their rooms how they want.

Carolina Housing is asking residents to pack light in case they are required to permanently relocate to another room or building on relatively short notice or return home during the semester.

Students requiring quarantine or isolation will be moved and housed in Craige North or Parker residence halls. 

“As the fall progresses, it is possible that residents will need to move rooms as housing is consolidated to meet potential health challenges,” the move-in guide states.

Living on-campus

University leaders sent a summary of changes for fall 2020 to students with on-campus housing contracts Thursday that will alter the on-campus residential experience.

Residents will be expected to wear a face covering or mask while indoors in their suite or apartment and in residence hall restrooms, lobbies, elevators, stairwells and other common areas in accordance with University guidelines. 

Residents will not be required to wear a mask while in their assigned room with the door closed. Roommates will be treated as a single household and will not be required to maintain a six-foot physical distance while in their room. 

University housekeeping staff will perform increased and enhanced cleaning of “high touch” areas, such as elevator buttons and door handles, common areas and restrooms in residence halls each day. Blattner said the University is hiring additional housekeeping staff to accomplish the enhanced cleaning program. While Granville Towers has not added additional housekeepers, he said they will follow the same cleaning protocols as main campus.

Hand-sanitizing stations will also be placed throughout residence halls.

Carolina Housing has suspended residence hall visitation until further notice for the health and well-being of residents and housing staff. Visitors include non-residents and campus residents not assigned to that building, including family members, friends, study partners and significant others. Residents will be permitted to visit buildings within their residential community to visit the community office or laundry facilities, according to the document. 

To use common areas in their assigned building, residents must follow mask requirements, physical distancing, posted occupancy limits and other rules.

Protocols for common areas include:

  • Common areas such as laundry rooms, lounges and kitchens will be limited to no more than 10 individuals and fewer in spaces where 6 feet of physical distancing cannot be achieved.
  • Elevator capacities will be four people unless otherwise determined.
  • Stairwells will be designated as one-way where possible.
  • Water fountains will not be available, but ice machines and water bottle refill stations will remain functional where possible.
  • Morrison Arts Studio, Craige Gaming Arena and Carmichael Maker Space will open with adjusted hours and operational protocols.

Only a limited number of enhancements — items that can be checked out for use by residents at the community office in each dorm — will be available at the beginning of the year to avoid potential issues with shared-use items. 

Violations of the housing rules may result in loss of privilege to live in the residence hall, according to the summary of changes.

An addendum has been made to students’ housing contracts to allow Carolina Housing to “respond, if needed, to the unknown conditions presented by this pandemic and bring our contract language in line with Carolina Housing operational procedures.” 

New language was added to the contract referencing refunds if housing is temporarily suspended during the semester. The University may offer prorated rent, as it did in the spring, but Carolina Housing said refunds are not guaranteed if housing is suspended. 

“Regrettably, the current uncertain economic environment and health outlook precludes us from making any definitive decisions or commitments now on future refunds,” the document states. 

Concerns about living on campus

Kira Griffith, president of the Residence Hall Association, said students have expressed concerns to her about the safety of living on campus given the population density and common spaces in dorms. 

Griffith said the main concerns include how well peers will abide by community standards and guidelines and if the capacity of two residence halls reserved for students requiring quarantine and isolation is enough. 

Aaron Park, a rising senior who will be a resident adviser mentor in Morrison Residence Hall this year, said he is particularly concerned about the University’s regulation of Greek life. Park said he thinks Greek life and the large gatherings and parties that may occur could be a hole in the University’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 on campus. 

Park said an on-campus resident who goes to a fraternity party could endanger all the residents in the building by potentially bringing the virus back and causing an outbreak.

“You can have social distancing and mask-wearing, but once you kind of infiltrate a community that is as dense as Hinton James or Morrison or all the first-year high rises, you’re putting everybody at risk,” Park said.

Griffith said students can voice any concerns about living on campus as the fall progresses to RHA.

While fall modifications to on-campus living may make fulfilling RHA’s mission of building a “comfortable and supportive living learning community” more challenging, Griffith said RHA will be striving to provide that environment by pivoting to foster connections and coordinate fun activities in a virtual space. Virtual programs hosted by RHA will occur several times a month, Griffith said.

“It'll be a challenge to return to campus and have an experience that may not necessarily be what you expected out of college, but I think that's something that students are facing all over the world, and RHA and several other organizations around campus are here to make sure that we can still do our best to offer the best living and learning environment and a safe, fun environment for students as well,” Griffith said.

Park said he expects being a RA will be more challenging this year due to additional stressors, such as navigating new relationships in a virtual space and concern for both his own and his residents’ personal safety and well-being. 

The best way to promote a safe living environment on campus will be through a team effort, with students being mindful of their actions, he said. 

“We are eager to welcome students back to Carolina, yet we understand the concerns that have been shared by many students and families,” Blattner said in an email. “We are implementing every precaution possible to create a safe and healthy environment for our residential students. Each student and their family must make the decision that is best for them and their situation.”

university@dailytarheel.com  

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