Students currently living in the residence quad were notified via email from housing on Apr. 3 that they must move into dorms in Columbia Village. This mandatory housing reassignment comes in response to Governor Ron DeSantis’s stay-at-home order.
Residence quad students
The email said that residence quad students must be relocated to Columbia Village beginning Monday, Apr. 6 in order for the university to protect their well-being as well as to focus staffing and support services.
Students in the residence quad and Columbia Village that notified housing or responded to a student life survey stating that they plan to remain on campus for the rest of the semester were given two options. They were told they could make an informed decision to relocate to Columbia Village or leave campus and notify housing.
The university acknowledged that leaving campus might not be an option for all, hence why they are committed to supporting students on campus.
Residence quad students were asked to pick up their new room assignments and keys at campus services during an assigned time as stated in the email they received. For example, residents in Shaw Hall were told to pick up their new room assignments between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. on Tuesday while residents in Campbell Hall were told to pick up their room assignments between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. on Monday.
James Riswick, a graduate student in the applied behavior analysis and organizational behavior management program, is one student that is affected by the mandatory housing reassignment.
Currently living in Shaw Hall, Riswick stated that he was first “angry and stressed” when hearing that he would have to move.
Riswick explained that he had understood the other precautions the university has taken to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak such as switching to online classes, the take-out only rule in the dining hall and shutting down certain offices on campus.
“This was the first change that I felt was upsetting and unnecessary,” Riswick said.
In addition to stress stemming from a heavy workload with his online class schedule, Riswick also stated that he feels moving would put his health at risk.
“I feel safer here in Shaw because I’m isolated in my own space with no roommates, there is a cleaning crew constantly coming through and there are only about a quarter of students that remain in Shaw,” Riswick said.
Another student affected by the mandatory housing reassignment is Juan Merced, a freshman majoring in astrobiology who is currently living in Campbell Hall.
Alike to Riswick, Merced also feels that this decision puts his health at risk.
“I am immunocompromised and I don’t see how living with four random strangers is going to be safe,” Merced said. “To have us move and live in different locations for less than four weeks, and then to have to do it all over again at the end of the semester, that’s ridiculous.”
In hopes of not having to move, Riswick created a petition through change.org titled “reverse order of mandatory change of housing assignment at Florida Tech for spring 2020.” As of today, that petition has over 130 signatures.
Columbia Village students
The email that students in Columbia Village received was similar to the one that students in the residence quad received.
“If you are planning to remain on campus for the remainder of the spring semester and you have vacant bedrooms in your dorm, these spaces are likely to be filled,” the email read.
Columbia Village residents were told to prepare their common areas in their dorms and expect new roommates to arrive on Monday, Apr. 6.
All students in Columbia Village and the residence quad were notified that their current mailboxes will stay in place until the end of semester, and that they must continue to follow all student conduct and housing policies — including the amended guest policy issued on Mar. 27 stating the number of individuals that may be in a space is equal to the number of residential beds assigned to the space.
Eli Rines, a junior majoring in applied behavioral analysis, said he has since moved out of Anderson Hall within Columbia Village, partially due to this housing reassignment.
“As a transgender man, a concern of mine was if I was going to be housed with men or women,” Rines said. “However, I’m also worried about risking my health.”
Rines added that not knowing who is moving in with him and where they have been is a problem for him.
Erin Corcoran, a freshman currently living in Clark Hall within Columbia Village, said she feels “stripped of her safety.”
“Even though I’m from Florida, I don’t feel safe going back home where I have family members that are essential workers and could expose me to something,” Corcoran said.
Corcoran also added that another big concern she has is that her new potential roommates may not be taking the issue seriously or following social distancing guidelines.
“At this point, I might just risk it and go home if I get new roommates,” Corcoran said. “I just don’t know what to do.”
According to Jacqueline Hetherington, director of residence life, there are roughly 700 students that remain on campus —roughly 250 of them being international students, based upon multiple surveys that the student life office has sent out to the student body since March 13. Hetherington added that officially 413 students have left campus.
Bino Campanini, the senior vice president of student life and alumni affairs and the chair of the pandemic response team, stated that the university is taking measures to best ensure the health and safety of students.
Campanini emphasized that the pandemic response team has been focusing on a consolidation of facilities such as closing down the Clemente Center and locking buildings on campus.
Campanini added that by consolidating the residence quad, it would allow National —Florida Tech’s custodial service — to focus more of their resources on other areas on campus such as Panther Dining Hall, Columbia Village, Harris Commons and Evans library to maximize cleanliness and better control the situation.
According to Campanini, there are roughly 100 students left in the residence quad. By closing down 40 bathrooms and 20 toilets in common areas in the residence quad, and locking down the quad dorms, the university can minimize frequented areas of surfaces that are touched.
Information from the Center for Disease Control states that it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes.
Greg Connell said in order to combat the spread of the coronavirus by surface contact, students that will be moved from the residence quad to Columbia Village will minimize contact with door knobs and other areas such as sinks that were previously common spaces in the residence quad.
Hetherington noted that measures are being taken to protect students when they have to go to Harris Commons to receive their new room assignment.
“The Harris Commons doors are being cleaned frequently,” Hetherington said. “We are also placing tape outside the office to allow for distancing, only allowing one person in the office at a time and making sure the only individual that touches the new housing keys are the students receiving them.”
Hetherington also added that Residence Life is urging students to have conversations with their new roommates regarding standards of living and that they spend time working on agreements about social distancing practices and more.
Rodney Bowers, dean of students, stated that if a known student is not practicing social distancing measures it should be reported to him so he can follow up on the issue.
“This is not a perfect scenario,” Campanini said. “Currently, we must look at the bigger picture to protect all 700 students that remain on campus.”
Connell emphasized that there will be flexibility for students who might have classes or other conflicts during the assigned times they were told to pick up their roommate assignments from Harris Commons.
“Students don’t have to move out precisely when they receive their new keys,” Connell said. “They have about 48 hours to move.”
If students have any other concerns regarding the move, Connell said the university is here to help them best accommodate. Bowers added that the residence quad buildings will be locked and shut down after students move out.