Safety, well-being first for students living in residence
On-campus accommodation considerations made due to COVID-19 concerns
To say that changes to the way we deliver classes, exams and student services due to COVID-19 have greatly altered our current student experience would be an understatement. This is an incredibly stressful time for students, particularly international students who are far from home and an existing support system. Students living in residence face increased challenges as well.
“We want to support our students in residence as much as possible during this challenging time,” said Barry Stone, director of student residences. “We are listening to students and we respect how stressed many of them feel right now. We are working closely with students to address their needs while ensuring the safety of our resident housing.”
In the world before COVID-19, operations across campus had a natural ebb and flow. Students living in residence would move into their dorm in September and then out again by April 30 after Winter Term exams. In any given year, many domestic and international students taking summer courses or who chose to work throughout the summer would apply to live on campus from May to August.
The current COVID-19 reality requires consideration of the safety of students and Public Health directives.
Stone explains: “We are operating out of an abundance of concern for the welfare and health of our students, and from the premise of safety first. Student residence is community living, where individuals live in close contact with one another. And, as close contact is contraindicated during a pandemic, when the size of groups is of great concern and is mandated by the government, it is most appropriate to reduce the number of students staying in residences.”
In light of this concern for safety, it has been requested that international students still in residence today leave by April 30, 2020. Students having difficulty making arrangements to go home due to extenuating circumstances or students who require more time and need a few extra days to make arrangements are being offered assistance on a case-by-case basis. Students who require assistance should reach out to the Student Residences office through the residence move-out information portal.
To date, UM has given extensions, both short and long-term, to about 135 students in addition to the 290 who had pre-pandemic approval.
“Housing large numbers of students in an environment such as a residence is in fact the opposite of the safest place to be,” Stone notes. “Our approach has been and continues to be making decisions that balance student support with the need to restrict the number of students living in residence due to Public Health directives. We, along with the International Centre, continue to have one-on-one conversations, e-mails, and phone calls with our students and provide a variety of support means to assist all of our international students at this challenging time.”
For more information, please visit COVID-19 (coronavirus) support for students in residence.
I have followed this ‘issue’ on various media outlets and social media over the past month. It seems that the University and those running the residences have gone ‘above and beyond’ a reasonable response. We are in a world -wide pandemic, countries are closing their borders, many of us have lost our jobs (including some teaching at the university), it is an unprecedented time in the world. It seems that keeping the residences open is akin to putting students in a ‘petri dish’ or incubator for the virus. Students were given ample time to find other arrangements. Much of the rhetoric that I have read from the students smacks of entitlement and given the crisis we are currently in, should be reined in. I have read on- line about students in the residences complaining of food programs, rooms they must occupy, social distancing issues etc.
A few questions for the university ‘powers that be’:
• Are social distancing policies being adhered to in the residences” If no, what are the ramifications?
• Are the students being subsidized (food plans or room costs)? If so, given the economic climate we are in (province looking for significant financial savings/ reductions at the U of M) this must stop!
• Are the students paying up front for the rooms? Is there any risk of default on the fees? It is difficult to swallow this happening in an economic climate that will be difficult for the University to ‘dig’ itself out of following the pandemic.
• Are all these students taking classes? If on -line, no need to be in residence.
• Are there any legal ramifications to the university if any of these international students contract COVID in residence? Have they all signed waivers that the university will not be held responsible?
• Is anyone following up on expediting their travel plans to their country of origin or out of residence?
The residences should be emptied purely from a health and safety perspective!
We are doing everything we can to support students during this challenging time while ensuring we maintain a safe, healthy environment in our residence buildings.
Working with our University partners and Government health agencies we have developed a plan to support those students who have demonstrated a need to remain on campus past the Winter Term move-out deadline. This plan encourages COVID-19 safety measures, including physical distancing that students have been respecting.
Additionally, we have implemented a mandatory meal plan, not ordinarily offered during summer months, to support the safety measures necessary to manage this unique situation. Meal and room costs are paid by the student on the first of every month, consistent with most rental agreements.
We continue to monitor the situation as it evolves in order to effectively support students during this very complex time.
We appreciate your feedback regarding this situation.