The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday January 29th

After exodus, spread of COVID-19 in dorms, students lack trust in Carolina Housing

UNC freshman Sara McClure poses for a portrait while studying on campus on Tuesday, Oct. 27th, 2020.
Buy Photos UNC freshman Sara McClure poses for a portrait while studying on campus on Tuesday, Oct. 27th, 2020.

Following the University's announcement on Friday detailing information about on-campus housing for spring 2021, students have begun to consider their living options for the spring semester.

There are currently over 1,000 students living on campus, and Carolina Housing announced their plans to welcome 2,000 more to residence halls in January. 

Carolina Housing will only offer single-occupancy rooms, will require re-entry and evaluation testing and will increase the number of quarantine and isolation rooms, according to the summary of conditions for spring 2021

"This has been a trying time for all Carolina students, and Carolina Housing joins many others across campus when we say that while the fall semester did not turn out the way we would have liked, we are working diligently with campus partners to plan for a successful spring semester for those students who are able to return to our residence halls," Carolina Housing Executive Director Allan Blattner said in a statement. 

But some students lack confidence and trust in Carolina Housing after the events of the fall semester, when classes went remote and dorms were de-densified after one week on campus

Ronik Grewal, a first-year student living at home this semester, said it feels like a waste of money to go back to campus for another semester that could be predominantly online. He said, though his plans are still up in the air, staying home seems like the best option. 

‘“I think the best decision would probably be to stay in my house because it's the cheapest option,” Grewal said. “I already know how to handle all of it. So there's no adjustment.”

First-year Rachel Reynolds said she wants to go back to Chapel Hill in the spring — but not to live on campus. She said she contracted COVID-19 on campus in the fall and feels the close quarters are unsafe during the pandemic. 

“I did get COVID and it basically just broke out in our suite," Reynolds said. "There's really nothing you could do about it because we all had to share a bathroom."

She said she has been searching for a room to sublease on Facebook for the spring semester, but is having trouble finding anything still available.

“I've found the whole process is really difficult, especially because it's so short term,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds said she has more confidence in the outcome of the spring semester because there will be fewer students on campus. She said she wants to be back in Chapel Hill because she wants to take some in-person classes.

“Another reason I'm trying to come back in the spring is so I can have like somewhat of a freshman experience, even if it's not a normal one,” Reynolds said.

Blattner said Housing's focus is on student safety and health. 

"While there are no guarantees, we can reduce the risk of members of our community getting sick," Blattner said in a statement. "Carolina Housing is working with our public health experts to create the safest environment possible for our residential students."

Sophomore Colton Browder is living in an apartment in his hometown in western North Carolina. He said he is still deciding whether to stay there for the spring semester or rent an apartment in Chapel Hill. Though he is considering a return to Chapel Hill, Browder said on-campus housing is out of the question. 

“I will never live in on-campus house again, period,” Browder said. “I don't believe, quite frankly, that it's going to ultimately be safe for students.”

Browder said the fall semester was a mistake, and he is worried that similar repercussions will occur in the spring.

“I think I just think that it's one of those things,” Browder said. “I really wish we could go back on campus, but if last semester shows anything to me, it is that you will see that they're (UNC) just not necessarily ready for this moment. And they failed for the moment last semester. I think that should be called from what it was: it was a failure.”

Blattner said Carolina Housing understands the added stress for residential students due to unexpected changes during the semester.

"While many details are still being finalized, we are monitoring the situation closely and are developing plans that support our students," Blattner said. "We will continue to communicate often and with as much detail as possible in the coming days and weeks.”

Browder said he personally knows people who have contracted the virus, and does not want to risk the health and safety of himself and others to move onto campus. He said he is not convinced that the measures the University is taking will be enough to prevent students from getting COVID-19.

“You know, I just don't honestly see it working out,” Browder said. “I hate to say that, I really wish it would work out. I don't want this to fail. I really hope next semester this works, what they're doing. I hope it works perfectly. I hope people don't get sick. I hope, you know.”

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