In an unprecedented decision, the Office of Student Affairs announced that the student apartments will close over winter break this year as a COVID-19 precaution.
As the Oct. 8 announcement email stated, the student apartments usually remain open over winter break, but the COVID-19 Preparedness Team recommended their closure. Seth Oldham, director of student affairs, clarified why the administration made this decision in an email to The University News:
“The university’s COVID-19 response requires that we are ready and able to assist students who need to quarantine or isolate. Our ability to respond is diminished due to the university being closed and a lack of food service over Christmas.”
Although apartments usually remain open as a courtesy to the students who live there, Oldham wrote that “this year we don’t anticipate anyone staying on campus over the Christmas holiday.”
In regards to academics, the OSA gave consideration to interterm classes. This fall semester ends on Nov. 25, and residence halls close that same day at 4 p.m. But student apartment residents can apply to stay in their apartments until Dec. 18, the day before interterm classes end.
However, some students were relying on the student apartments to remain open for the entirety of the break. When Gretta Klein, a junior math major, heard about the apartments’ closing, she initially reacted with frustration.
“I was mostly angry because that was the only reason I chose to stay in the apartments was so I could stay over break,” said Klein.
Housing operations director Betty Peretta recommended the student apartments to Klein at the beginning of the semester, assuring her that they would be open over the break.
“At the beginning of the semester when I was applying for the apartments, I asked if we were going to be able to stay. She said, ‘yes, you’re going to be able to stay during that time’ and that was the one thing that kept me from applying to live off-campus,” said Klein.
Klein did not have plans to stay elsewhere during the break, but she has been able to make accommodations. Regardless, “It was frustrating because I’m sure there are other people that are having harder times [finding a place to stay],” she said.
“I think they let us know as quickly they could but also it was just such a late notice.”
Student-athletes have already had their seasons disrupted, and the closure of the student apartments is an additional inconvenience. Jacob Taylor, a junior basketball player, stated that their practices will begin Jan. 6, the same day the apartments reopen.
“Because the campus is closing, we’re going to be behind and we’re just going to have to catch back up. Obviously, we’re going to be rusty and it’s going to be harder to get back into shape.”
Their shortened preseason is due to coronavirus precautions, not directly because of the closure of the student apartments.
Letrell Toussaint, another junior basketball player, stated that “we’re not going to be practicing during the break this year because of COVID so whenever we come back is when we start practice again.”
The purpose of the decision was due to precautionary measures. Yet, Klein questioned the decision.
“I think the COVID precaution is very debatable because they want it out of their hands. There are cases of COVID on campus currently and you’re just going to send a bunch of students, who would otherwise just stay here, around the country.”
In order for campus apartment residents to stay in their apartment until Dec. 18, they must apply before the Nov. 15 deadline. If students fail to meet that deadline, or if they elect to stay in the area between Dec. 18 and Jan. 6, students will have to find their own accommodations.