The University's Residence Hall Association and Carolina Housing held a joint town hall Thursday to reflect on the on-campus housing situation in the fall semester and answer questions on future plans for campus housing in the spring.
The town hall was moderated by RHA President Kira Griffith and RHA Vice President Elli Alexander. The duo began by answering pre-submitted questions, which first revolved around Carolina Housing’s response to the pandemic in the fall semester.
Allan Blattner, executive director of Carolina Housing, said that the tight timeline for moving out in the fall semester was implemented in consideration for the good of public health.
“We’ll continue to try to have flexibility, allowance for as much time as we can reasonably afford and providing as many resources as we can to be part of any future conversations,” Blattner said.
In response to a question about confusion over information on clusters on campus, Blattner said that clusters were no longer reported on Alert Carolina as the alert system had been originally set up for emergencies.
“It's very important that communication happened in the right way and using the right channels,” Blattner said. “One of the risks in notifying the department, resident advisers and other people, is that they begin to communicate that message before students have a chance to read the University's message around a particular incident.”
He said that residents of buildings with cases were still emailed with specific instructions on what to do, and that updates were provided on the University's COVID-19 dashboard.
Questions were also raised about housing contract cancellations and refunds in the event of a shut down in the spring semester, but Blattner said that the housing department is currently unable to provide an answer.
“There's lots of things that go into that decision, including guidance from the UNC system decisions by University leadership and what that would all entail,” he said.
When it came to how Carolina Housing would prevent COVID-19 regulation violations, Blattner said that the onus of following guidelines fell on the decisions of each individual student.
Kala Bullett, senior director of residential education, said that violations of regulations such as mask-wearing would be immediately documented for administrative response.
“We don’t make exceptions to the final decision on whether a student is removed from housing or not based on whether or a student thought that these guidelines didn’t pertain to them,” she said.
The discussion then shifted to questions for the RHA and its plans for the spring semester.
Griffith said that the RHA’s goal was to advocate for on-campus students. She said that its focus for the next semester would be on continuing programming enhancements and advocacy efforts to ensure that student concerns were addressed.
When asked about the RHA’s relationship with campus police, Griffith said that conversations concerning how to build a better relationship with students who lived on campus had increased over the summer under her capacity as RHA president.
“The presence of police impacts people very differently,” she said. “Especially our Black and brown individuals, people of color and other marginalized communities on campus. It's very important to us that we recognize that and are able to hold leaders accountable to the decisions they make that are impacting the students they're serving.”
Griffith highlighted RHA’s work and advocacy across campus, mentioning how she was involved in the decision to remove the names of four campus buildings. She said that she was also going to be a part of the construction of a renaming policy that would be discussed further in the spring semester.
Griffith then opened the floor to live discussion, where students asked about COVID-19 enforcement guidelines and concerns over facilities and accommodations.
Bullett clarified that they expect students to always be masked both indoors and outdoors, with a few exceptions.
“We also understand you obviously can't brush your teeth or wash your face or take a shower with a mask on," she said. "And so we ask that students are traveling from their room to the community bathroom with their mask on, and to take their mask off briefly to do those things."
In terms of housing accommodations, Blattner confirmed that Craige, Craige North and Horton would be used as quarantine isolation residence halls. He also said that priority housing for the spring semester would only apply for groups that would have always otherwise qualified for priority housing regardless of the special circumstances in the fall.
“That doesn't mean that there won't be continued special circumstances housing," he said. "There always is. But as a matter of broad priority living on campus this fall or last fall or this spring, will not have an impact on next fall.”
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