As the coronavirus outbreak leaves Boston University students scrambling to leave campus, BU Housing is also facing pressure from students. Amid switches to online classes, BU Housing had to postpone the handling of other residential affairs, such as room selection and appointment of Resident Assistants, for next year.
BU Housing informed students in an email Monday that they are postponing the remaining phases of room selection. Students can check their email or BU Housing’s website when new dates are solidified.
In a separate email Wednesday, BU Residence Life told students who applied to become next year’s resident assistants that decisions — originally slated to be announced March 20 — are now delayed.
The office cited a surge in workload from assisting students moving out, following Tuesday’s announcement by President Robert Brown, which required all students without “extraordinary, extenuating circumstances” to vacate all dorms by March 22.
“As a result of this announcement, our staff needs to prioritize this unprecedented University-wide move-out effort and will be unable to meet this notification deadline,” the Residence Life office wrote.
BU Residence Life also wrote that while it anticipates results to be released in the next two weeks, the situation is fluid in this “very uncertain time.”
While efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak have halted the operation of other on-campus facilities, including BU Libraries, FitRec and major academic buildings, some departments have continued their normal operation with staffers contributing remotely. Among them, BU Housing has had a busy time of the year, BU’s spokesperson Colin Riley, said.
“They are pretty depleted, and a lot of people are working remotely,” Riley said. “They are going to be providing assistance to those students so no one returns to campus, either [with] storing or shipping items, assisting in the process or providing guidance.”
Riley also said that it is “prudent” for BU Housing to delay other less urgent tasks, such as room selection, as the department is now “extraordinarily busy” with helping students leave campus by the end of the week.
Riley said he expects other processes to gradually resume once the situation moves toward a positive direction, while encouraging students to take “steps to prevent the spread,” and showing understanding to others in the community.
“Our students have certainly shown resilience,” Riley said. “With this being a global outbreak and pandemic, it really is important that everyone takes proper steps.”
Samantha Sgrizzi, a sophomore in Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said while she isn’t happy with the rapid changes students were told to make, she understands the school is facing a time-sensitive situation.
“No one has answers,” Sgrizzi said. “We might be angry that everything seems vague and uncertain and that they’re giving us no time, but they have no time.”
Regarding the postponement of room assignment, she said it should not be a priority on people’s minds right now.
“People honestly need to let go of that,” Sgrizzi said. “If we come back to campus, it’s going to happen. Faculty isn’t here to set us up to fail.”
Samantha Feldbaum, a freshman in the College of General Sciences, said she thinks BU could have done a better job of communicating with students in a less confusing manner as students have been receiving policy updates frequently within the past week.
“A lot of people are getting tons of emails at once, and they don’t really know which one to believe, and they’re all from different people,” Feldbaum said.
Brown initially told students in a March 11 email that BU would consider transitioning back to in-person teaching after April 13. While he encouraged students on campus to “consider going home, if possible,” the move was not mandatory.
The decision on March 17 came as a sharp reversal to the previous announcement a week ago. Students who returned to campus after spring break are now forced to pack up and leave again.
And for those who came back shortly last week to pick up belongings needed over the expected month-long online learning period, they now have to worry about things left in their to-be-vacated rooms.
“So next time, I mean, hopefully there is no next time, it would be helpful to really decide on what you want to do, and then send an email,” Feldbaum said.
Daniel Ruiz, a senior at the College of Arts and Sciences, said he “100 percent” understands BU Housing’s decision to delay room assignments, citing its minor importance compared to other priorities at the moment.
“Things that are more important right now are finals, grades, refunds, and international students that are being forced out of their dorms — that’s the priority,” Ruiz said. “You shouldn’t really worry about [room selection].”
Ruiz also said he believes the university is already working as hard as possible to help students in this difficult time.
“It’s always hard, because you’re literally having 35,000 students on campus or on school premises that you have to evacuate.” Ruiz said. “I’m sure people haven’t even been sleeping. People in the administration, I’m sure they’re working day and night because that’s their job.”