Milena Dupuis/Contributing Writer
Moving into dorms for the fall semester has always been revered as a pilgrimage to new experiences and freedoms. Now, it’s become a one-way ticket to fear and uncertainty.
FIU’s plan to reopen has been met with a sense of excitement and joy by its commuter student population, but as an on-campus student I find the plan to be vague and concerning.
It’s one thing to be able to commute to your face-to-face courses and go home. Living on campus is a completely different experience that comes with its own unique risks that should be accounted for. As FIU plans to reopen, there is a gaping hole in the way that its residence halls will be managed: room assignments.
FIU announced that all residence halls will be used in the Fall semester, with the exception of a portion of University Apartments, which will be used as a location to quarantine and isolate students. The exact amount of students assigned to each suite in the residence halls is still unknown—and that is a major problem.
During the Town Hall that took place on June 8, I took the time to ask FIU faculty how they plan to populate the dorms at FIU. I specifically asked if Parkview would still house four students per suite and if Panther Hall would still house two students per room. All I was told was that there would be no more than one student per room and no more than four students per bathroom.
This was the most unclear answer I could have been given, and it greatly diminished the confidence I had in FIU to keep me safe while living on campus. How can we trust the university to have an effective plan when they can’t even tell us how many students will be assigned per suite at Parkview? The risk of living with one other person versus living with two or three roommates greatly differs.
The mere gesture of asking students to return to their residence halls in the midst of a pandemic calls for a lot of trust in FIU. If an on-campus student comes into contact with COVID-19 or with someone who has COVID-19, they are going to be required to isolate themselves. This creates a terrifying situation where students will have to be completely alone for an extended period somewhere that is hours away from our family. FIU also has yet to clarify how it will care for its isolated residents, making it apparent that we may have to fend for ourselves.
Swapping our face-to-face courses for remote or online ones is not a “solution” to this problem. For many of us, the face-to-face courses that are requiring us to move back into the dorms this fall are the same courses that are required for our programs. Calling for students to swap their desired courses for ones they have no interest in so that they can feel safe is counterintuitive and a waste of tuition.
Furthermore, students may be forced to risk living on campus because refusing to do so jeopardizes their graduation. Some students are also being placed in a situation where the last course they need in order to graduate is only offered in a face-to-face format. It is absurd for students to have to compromise the quality of their learning experience, the content of their education and path to graduation in order to ensure their health and safety.
To add insult to injury, it was mentioned at the town hall that students are expected to pay a cancellation fee of $250 if they choose to cancel their housing contracts for COVID-19-related reasons. Students must pay this fee since the deadline to cancel their contracts was on July 1—which is simply unfair with the situations of uncertainty many students are undoubtedly facing at the moment.
FIU should not be reopening for the fall semester. Florida’s cases of COVID-19 are at an all time high, and there is no sign of the spread slowing down. But, if they still intend on doing so, I have a couple of suggestions on ways to ensure the safety of on-campus residents.
Firstly, all students should be tested for COVID-19 when moving into their dorms, and should ensure that all on-campus residents have easy and free access to COVID-19 testing throughout the entirety of the fall semester. The more comfortable that students feel getting tested, the more likely cases of the virus can be identified.
There should also be a way for face-to-face classes to simultaneously be held online. One possible way to do this is by having remote students sit in on their courses through the means of a Zoom call. They could still be able to participate in class and complete assignments through Canvas.
Yes, we, the students who reside on-campus, are a minority of the student population—but that does not mean that our health and safety should go overlooked.
Featured image from FIU Flickr.
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