Students are petitioning online for Boston University Housing to allow those who have signed on to 2020–2021 housing agreements to terminate them for Spring.
BU Housing’s Residence License Agreement requires students to pay for their rooms for the full academic year, but because of Learn from Anywhere, some students are deciding to leave campus next semester.
Natalie Gonzalez, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, launched a petition Oct. 22 to ask BU to be more flexible in its 2020–2021 Residence License Agreement.
The petition is about halfway to Gonzalez’s goal of 500 signatures as of Thursday night, and Gonzalez said it will be sent to BU Housing when that number is met.
BU spokesperson Colin Riley wrote in an email the deadline for canceling the RLA was Aug. 1, but BU is reviewing the cancellation policy. BU will make a final decision by Nov. 16.
“The University will communicate that decision to students who have made a request to cancel their RLA when it is made,” Riley wrote.
The Aug. 1 deadline was already an extension of the University’s usual mid-July deadline.
Gonzalez said she created the petition after a “hostile” encounter with a member of BU Housing’s staff when she asked to cancel her housing agreement for Spring.
She said Housing’s lack of compassion for students during the pandemic is inconsistent with the supportive messaging from the Dean of Students Office and other departments such as the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground, Gonzalez said.
Many students, Gonzalez said, were under the assumption the flexibility of the hybrid model would extend to this year’s housing agreement. They signed the agreement without knowing what Spring semester would look like, she added.
“It would be disingenuous of the university to not expand that flexibility and allow it to include housing,” Gonzalez said.
Brenda Levin, a parent of a BU student, said she doesn’t want to continue paying for her daughter’s dorm room now that her daughter is living at home. Levin said her daughter moved back home three weeks after the semester began because she felt isolated and “depressed” in her dorm.
While Levin said she feels she can afford to pay room and board for her daughter despite not using the housing, she wants to receive a refund out of principle.
“It isn’t really the money. It’s the waste of the money, that I’m not getting anything for it,” Levin said. “And it’s the attitude of BU Housing. It disgusts me. It’s like they don’t care how depressed these kids are.”
The experience Levin’s daughter, who transferred to BU in January, had on campus is not what Levin envisioned when she signed the housing contract. Levin said she expected her daughter to have a roommate and some in-person classes on her schedule, neither of which happened.
“Nobody said that it would be all online,” Levin said. “I feel like BU broke the contract by not giving us what they told us they were going to give us.”
CAS sophomore Danae Gaytan is in the process of trying to terminate her housing agreement because her experience this semester did not live up to her expectations.
“I think it’s ridiculous that BU is going to try to charge people for a service they’re not using in the middle of a pandemic,” Gaytan said. “On Aug. 1, did we know what BU was going to be like? On Aug. 1, I was more hopeful than I am now.”
Laurie-Anne Matos, a sophomore in the Questrom School of Business, said the recent uptick of COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts and on BU’s campus is why she wants to cancel her housing agreement. Matos transferred to BU this semester and did not realize the RLA was a full-year agreement.
Matos also created a separate petition calling for BU to allow students to cancel their housing contracts. She said though she wasn’t aware of other petitions at the time, her purpose in launching one of her own was to show BU Housing she is not the only person frustrated by the RLA guidelines.
“I just hope that they see it in their eyes to side with the students and be compassionate and understanding that everyone’s situation right now is very unstable,” Matos said. “Allowing the students to have that flexibility that LfA offers us with housing as well would be very helpful.”
Matos’ petition has more than 100 signatures as of Thursday night, with a goal of 200.
Questrom junior Steven Bennett said he is happy with his current RLA status and plans to remain for Spring if BU does not allow housing cancellations, but that he supports the petition’s request.
He added BU is likely trying to listen to student needs, but the University also has a financial incentive to be strict about cancellations. This year, BU has faced drops in tuition and housing revenue from students either taking leaves of absence or learning remotely from elsewhere.
“They’re suffering a lot of losses, not only because of the students who are deciding to take gap years,” Bennett said, “but also for the people who are wondering, ‘Well, couldn’t I just stay home and then pay for classes?’”