Two weeks after move-in began, students must now decide how to move forward with their on-campus housing after the University announced undergraduate classes would shift to being fully remote.
The University announced Monday it would continue to “de-densify” housing capacity and offered students the chance to cancel housing contracts with no fee. Students weighed the question of whether or not they should remain on campus Tuesday — with classes proceeding as normal.
Then Tuesday evening, Carolina Housing informed residents that they should make plans to return to their "permanent home" for the fall semester and cancel their housing contract within the next week.
The University will use a review process for students who have to remain on campus.
“It has definitely been an emotional rollercoaster,” Residence Hall Association President Kira Griffith said Tuesday afternoon. “Hearing the University’s decision to move online put a lot of students in a position where they felt very uncertain about what the next few weeks of the semester are going to look like.
"They are concerned about what the on-campus living situation will be like and whether or not housing will still be an option moving forward.”
Since the announcement to move to remote instruction Monday afternoon, students have started moving out from residence halls across campus. 573 students have requested housing contract cancellations, and by noon on Tuesday, 103 students had already completed the move-out process, WRAL reported Tuesday.
Sophomore and Morrison Residence Hall resident Mariana Jimenez said she expected there to be COVID-19 cases on campus, but didn’t foresee it escalating this quickly.
“I was expecting, coming into campus, for some people to contract COVID, but I was expecting people to follow the guidelines and for UNC to enforce the guidelines somehow, but they haven't,” Jimenez said. “Now, with this, I live in a super-suite in Morrison and all of my suitemates have left. I only have my roommate, but she's leaving Friday.”
First-year Ehringhaus resident Lucy Smithwick said she expected a change in instruction as clusters began to be announced, but told The Daily Tar Heel Tuesday afternoon she was concerned with how Carolina Housing is handling the situation.
“The fact that they haven't really said anything specific about the move-out stuff is what makes me mad. Either say, ‘stay,’ or ‘feel free to move out if you want,’ or ‘we're forcing you out,’” Smithwick said. “The fact that they're like leaving it up to us to decide is just like they're guilting us into moving out, which is what doesn't really sit right with me.”
The University gave more information on move-out processes in the email Tuesday evening.
Student Carolina Housing employees are also left with unanswered questions. Mikyla Williams, a junior office assistant at Craige Residence Hall, said she is unsure if she will continue to be paid for her position this semester.
“Really right now, I don’t know anything, but I’m definitely wondering,” Williams said. “Last year when we got kicked off campus they still paid us until the summer started but now I'm confused. Will they pay us through the rest of the semester or will we not get paid?”
Sophomore resident adviser at Craige Jarrah Faye said dealing with this situation as an employee has been stressful, as they now have to wait to hear about their compensation while they try to help residents deal with move-out logistics.
“Chaos — that’s the only way I know to put it,” Faye said. “Chaos, uncertainty, worry, angst, sadness, anger — it’s just a lot of that at the same time.”
Faye also said UNC had the resources to instill stricter measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from the beginning.
“UNC should have had better enforcement,” Faye said. “If you have millions of dollars to give to a confederacy group, you have more than enough to put in enforcement policies to make sure that people follow the rules.”
Undergraduate Student Government Affordability Committee Co-Chairs Ekta Deshmukh and Collyn Smith sent a letter to Carolina Housing and the UNC administration Tuesday that included a list of demands for students and employees amidst the shift to remote learning.
The demands in their letter include:
- Explicit language stating that no student will be asked or pressured to cancel their housing contract in its entirety.
- Students who have not been identified to have hardships should be able to remain on campus without further explanation on their part.
- Offer storage and/or shipping services to students who are unable to move out of on-campus housing at no extra cost.
- A commitment to compensate student housing employees/residential student ITS employees and non-student staff the previously agreed upon amount whether they choose to remain in their position or choose to leave on-campus housing.
Smith emphasized that it was important to the committee that they were quick in making their demands clear to the administration.
“We didn't want to do something after the fact," Smith said. "We think that’s been the biggest issue all summer and all through the spring is that students aren’t put in these decision making processes to begin with. We’re asked for our opinions and told we’re listened to, just for the administration to turn around and do the exact opposite of what we’ve asked and what we think is best for students.”
Smith and Deshmukh included in their letter that they expect a response on each demand by Aug. 21 at 5 p.m.
“Students shouldn't have to explicitly spell out everything that they are going through for administration to understand,” Deshmukh said. “Every hardship that they go through shouldn't have to be vocalized.”
After Carolina Housing issued its plans for move-out, Smith said he was disappointed.
“While I understand that we are not Carolina Housing and we do not have the direct stake in it as much as these people do, I’m sure that out of the 18 administrators that we emailed, at least one of them saw it," Smith said.
Smith said the plan goes against the committee's second demand by pressuring students to cancel their housing contract — even doing the opposite. He said this puts additional stress on students while they're still attending classes, and it completely counterproductive to their wellbeing.
Meanwhile, as residents prepare to move home for the rest of the semester, first-year student Smithwick said she is looking ahead and hoping that the spring semester will be different.
“Obviously I really want to have a first-year college experience so if everything is safe by the spring semester I am going to try and move in again,” she said. “If we are still online or I wouldn’t be able to, I might figure out plans to get an apartment eventually, but at the moment, we're just moving home, and I'm going to figure out what we do from there.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.