As if students needed another reason to feel stressed, FIU Housing’s vague and confusing messaging have left campus residents in a daze.
After the announcement that classes were going to be cut short on Wednesday, March 11, Housing sent an email “encouraging residents to go home immediately.” Many of them did.
On Sunday, March 15, students were again advised via email to leave campus and only pack their essentials. Those who lived in specific counties, like Miami-Dade and Collier, were told to leave immediately.
Two days later, residents were asked to come back and move out completely by Friday. Many of the students who had already left by then experienced panic and frustration—especially those who live out of state and had no way of returning before the deadline. Their remaining alternatives were to either have someone retrieve their belongings for them, or have the staff put everything in storage.
Of course, this brought about questions of privacy, as well as concerns from students that their things would be forgotten or mishandled.
Then, on Wednesday, March 18, Housing sent a fourth email saying that students unable to return could leave their belongings in the dorms, as staff would have no need to remove them until the end of the semester. Students who emailed Housing personally were told that their belongings would remain in their dorms until at least the end of spring, when their situations would be revisited depending on circumstances.
Andrew Naylor, senior director of Housing and Residential Life, told PantherNOW that the instructions had to be changed after the first emails went out. But by then, everyone was already confused and irritated.
The way this has unfolded shows an absence of foresight and preparedness from University Housing. Of course, there is no protocol for a pandemic, but the lack of proper communication has left students stranded and scrambling to leave.
Housing was vague and unclear in pressuring students to leave their dorms, then asking them to come back and pick up their belongings. Students should not have been expected to retrieve their items in less than four days, especially with the flight restrictions and any other number of complications placed on them by the pandemic. Even then, making students return to the University and be in close proximity to each other at a time of social distancing was a miscalculated move.
FIU isn’t the only institution that experienced this kind of problem. Earlier this month, Harvard gave its students five days to evacuate its dorms after transitioning to online learning.
More recently, the University of Central Florida gave its on-campus residents four days to pack up and formally check out of their dorms; students who had left for spring break are not allowed back on campus and will be given instructions on when to return to campus, according to Knight News.
A decision like this places more pressure on the student body—something we can’t afford to have right now. While there’s no way to properly plan for a pandemic, the faulty communication between FIU Housing and its residents only produced more panic.
Rather than place more undue pressure on its students, the University can make amends by informing students through a centralized site, like fiu.edu/coronavirus, about the current status of FIU Housing. Issuing refunds for students who can no longer live on campus or use their dining dollars, a tactic the University of Florida is developing, could also alleviate financial burdens. Finally, closing down all dorms and ensuring that no one is in close proximity with each other is pertinent in times like these.
The last thing we need is more confusion and fear to infect our University.