Campus, Coronavirus, News

Students offered reduced-density housing for the Fall, University still evaluating policy

hallway in kilachand hall
Hallway in Kilachand Hall. Although Boston University has not officially decided whether it will continue offering de-densified housing next year, students have only been able to reserve single and double rooms. THALIA LAUZON/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Boston University Housing has not made a final decision about plans to continue its policy of reduced-density housing for the next school year, but students have only been allowed to reserve single and double rooms for the Fall.

The policy introduced last Fall reduced the capacity of on-campus housing by modifying existing triples — excluding ones located at 575 Commonwealth Avenue — and quads into doubles.

BU Assistant Vice President of Public Relations and Social Media Rachel Lapal Cavallario wrote in an email the housing policy for next semester has not been decided on as of yet.

“No final decision has been made about maintaining de-densified housing for the fall,” she wrote, “but it is good advice for students to secure their on-campus housing space during the ongoing room selection process.”

BU spokesperson Colin Riley said he anticipates more students will return to the campus next school year, but as of now the University’s decision regarding housing policies is uncertain.

“I don’t know that there’ll be any final decision, because so much about the Fall is still not knowable, about our freshmen class, about housing demand and things like that,” he said. “We have plans, but I don’t think that there’s been any final decision made. It’s a little premature.”

Riley said once COVID-19 vaccines are available to all students, the University will have a better idea of the housing demand for the Fall.

Davidson Hamer, a professor of global health and medicine and member of BU’s Medical Advisory Group, said fear of in-room transmission of the virus is a likely reason why BU Housing may not offer triples and quads for next year.

“Our hope is that a high proportion of the campus, including faculty, staff and students, will be vaccinated and that the risk for transmission, at least on campus, is going to be very, very low,” Hamer said.

He said if BU plans to return to in-person learning this Fall, it may not be necessary to continue the de-densified housing model depending on the conditions of the pandemic.

“If things are going to be safer, or if the risk of transmission is going to be lower in the fall,” Hamer said. “My hope is it’s going to be much lower than it is now or it was last fall, is that step necessary?”

Sirena Lopez, a freshman in the College of Fine Arts, said she tried to reserve a triple this week but noticed on the website that only singles and doubles were listed — an experience she said was “frustrating.”

“We were looking for a triple, like apartment style campus housing,” Lopez said. “We noticed in the room availability that they weren’t advertising any triples or quads, it was just singles and doubles and we were like, ‘this is weird.’”

Lopez said she and her two potential roommates were looking to live in an apartment in South Campus or on Bay State Road. Lopez said she thought BU would offer students the option of reserving a triple or quad once again because the University is expecting a return to normal operations next semester.

“If they were planning on not having all in-person, then I guess it would have still made sense, but they didn’t,” Lopez said. “So not changing the housing doesn’t seem like it makes sense.”

College of Arts and Sciences freshman Diana Reno said she wished BU had better communicated the policy before students had to choose their housing.

“I didn’t really know about it,” she said. “I think since I and a lot of people I know have already chosen their rooms, I feel like we should have been told about the changes to any policy or continuing policies.”

Reno added, however, BU made an appropriate decision for the sake of students’ safety.

“Otherwise, that’s probably a good idea,” Reno said. “I’m no expert, I don’t know if it will be entirely necessary.”

College of General Studies freshman Ryleigh Fortin had also hoped to live in a triple next school year with her roommates.

“My initial reaction to it is if it’s mandatory to be on campus then … are people going to have enough places to stay without the triples and quads?” Fortin asked. “But I guess since they’re doing it there must be.”

CAS freshman Colin Gao said he agrees with the University’s decision to keep triples and quads at a lower capacity.

“If half of the student body still haven’t got fully vaccinated with a COVID vaccine,” he said, “I think it will be safe to de-densify dorms to try to minimize on COVID contacts.”

Fortin noted she hopes with the anticipated return to normal next semester BU will be less strict with visiting rules between residences.

“I think that they will open up a little bit more,” she said. “I believe that you should be able to have people from other dorms or other housing places come visit you.”

She added she had previously tried to reserve a quad for the 2020-2021 academic year, but was unable to do so after BU’s reduced density measures came into effect.

“I guess it’s a little bit disappointing if another year doesn’t work out where I want to do a triple and it doesn’t happen,” Fortin said. “Obviously everyone’s safety is more important. And at this point, I am kind of used to the disappointment.”

Nick Kolev contributed to the reporting of this article.

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