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‘No reason for me to stay’: What coronavirus-induced online classes means for student housing

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‘No reason for me to stay’: What coronavirus-induced online classes means for student housing

Maple Hall on UW's West Campus.

The university’s pandemic response plan last updated in February ahead of a possible novel coronavirus outbreak in the United States includes almost a dozen steps the university can take to blunt a disease’s spread. 

Suspending classes, restricting visits to campus, and implementing travel restrictions are a few of the moves on the list that the university has already taken to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak that has 15 confirmed cases in the UW community, as of March 19.

Also on that list? “Evacuate residence halls and/or other University-supported housing units.”

And yet, when the university announced all instruction spring quarter would be conducted remotely, it made clear that students could remain in residence halls.

Students are being given two options for housing next quarter. 

Students who wish to stay can continue to reside in their current on-campus housing and will pay full housing and dining charges next quarter. 

Those who want to move out, however, are free to do so. Residents who move out by April 8 will not be charged for spring quarter housing or dining. Additionally, early termination, which is typically charged if a resident chooses to opt out of their housing agreement early, will not be charged.

“We don’t want to penalize you financially for a choice you make based upon circumstances you couldn’t foresee,” Housing & Food Services (HFS) executive director Pamela Schreiber said in an email to residents Wednesday evening.

Students who may be out-of-state or are not in a position to return to campus to collect their belongings can reach out to HFS who will partner them with a company that will help them “arrange for packing, pick-up and storage.” 

“We expect that most students who returned home prior to spring break will remain there and we encourage that,” Schreiber said in her message. “Our residences remain available to students who need to reside on campus because we recognize that many of you have personal situations where remaining in residence is your best or only option.”

Students should let HFS know their intentions for housing by March 25. If HFS doesn’t hear from a student by then, it will assume they are remaining in their current housing arrangement. Those whose situation doesn’t fit within these two options can contact HFS to find a solution.

In an effort to uphold social distancing protocols, some students will be moved to other buildings where they can stay in rooms with private bathrooms. The university has said that, unlike other schools which have communal restrooms and have evacuated their dorms, social distancing is made easier at the UW because of bathrooms in every unit.

Multiple students who have tested positive are self-isolating in residence halls, according to UW’s environmental health & safety department. 

Meanwhile, many students in both on- and off-campus housing have decided to move back home, seeing little reason to remain near the UW just for remote instruction. Those outside the university’s residence halls have been left scrambling to find someone to sublet their apartments or a room in their house as they want to avoid paying rent for a space they won’t be occupying.

Some have taken to Facebook to try to quickly transfer the leases for their rooms. One said they wouldn’t be on campus next quarter, so “this is a great deal for anyone in urgent need for housing or need a more [safe and clean] environment during this Coronavirus outbreak.” 

Some are even leaving all their furniture as they try to skip town as quickly as possible.

Second-year student Connie Hsu, for example, is trying to sublet her apartment until summer quarter, while she moves back in with her parents in Sammamish. Others are going as far as upstate New York and senior Claire Komori is going back to Tokyo and probably won’t come back because she’s graduating in the spring. 

“There's really no reason for me to stay in [the] U-District,” Hsu said.

Reach Science Editor Ash Shah and News Editor Jake Goldstein-Street at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @itsashshah @GoldsteinStreet 

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