While some aspects of the Wayne State student experience remain uncertain, Housing and Residential Life is already implementing COVID-19 safety procedures that will affect students living on-campus come fall.
During a virtual town hall on June 16, Associate Vice President for Student Auxiliary Services and Chief Housing Officer Tim Michael said about 500 people —primarily students and some interns— are living in Anthony Wayne Drive Apartments and University Towers throughout the spring/summer semester.
“Facial coverings are required to enter any housing buildings, as well as in all public areas such as elevators, hallways and community rooms,” said Nick Board, supervisor of marketing and communications for student auxiliary services. “The only place you don’t need them is if you’re in your room or suite.”
To limit non-residents entering housing facilities, guest visits are suspended during the spring/summer semester, according to the Housing and Residential life website. This practice will continue into the fall.
In an email to students on June 2, President M. Roy Wilson said fall classes will most likely be conducted through a combination of in-person —where social distance can be maintained— and online classes.
Incoming freshmen Andrew Peterson is planning on moving from Plainfield, Ill. to WSU’s campus to study biological sciences, he said. This will depend largely on WSU’s fall course decision.
“I’m mainly concerned about whether or not I’m even going to live on campus or if I’m just going to have online classes and stay home,” Peterson said. “But I feel like I can keep myself safe, and other students can keep themselves safe, by practicing safe techniques and social distancing either way.”
Despite the uncertainty, housing applications for the fall semester are staying “pretty consistent,” Board said. About 2,500 applications were submitted.
“I think one of the things helping is that we’ve extended the June 30 [housing license agreement] cancellation deadline to July 20,” he said.
Because WSU’s decision on fall courses is expected by July 15, Board said the deadline was extended to give students more time to make their fall housing accommodations.
Anakah Blockton, an incoming freshman, said living on-campus in the fall is necessary for her.
“Living on campus is kind of the only option I have,” she said. “I’m currently staying with my mom, but we only have two bedrooms and my sister is supposed to move into my room when I move out.”
One of Blockton’s concerns is being asked to leave if there is another surge in COVID-19 cases, she said.
“There is nowhere for me to go if we are sent home because of another outbreak,” Blockton said.
On March 29, Leon H. Atchison Hall closed and students needing to live on-campus were moved to different housing facilities. WSU also offered $850 housing credits to students moving out of on-campus housing by April 9.
Prior to fall move-in, current and incoming residents will be tested for COVID-19, Director of Residence Life Nikki Dunham said. Students are also required to complete an online check-in pass module, that reviews important information regarding living on-campus.
“That will include a safety course which is based on COVID-19 mitigation strategies and what your personal responsibility will be,” Dunham said.
This year’s move in will also take place over the week of August 23, Dunham said. In years past, move in took place over a two-day period.
“We have extended move-in to be a week-long process to allow for maximum physical distancing and a safe experience for everybody,” she said.
The reopening of Chatsworth Suites —under renovation since May 2019— will also help reduce floor occupancy, Michael said.
“That will add another 350 beds to our housing capacity,” he said. “With these additional beds, we believe we will have excess capacity beyond the anticipated demand and will be able to spread those excess bed spaces across all of our housing facilities to reduce occupancy where needed.”
Residential life is currently revising the residential curriculum to support more physical distancing, Board said. Curriculum will also reflect the needs of students that may have changed because of the pandemic.
“In terms of (resident advisor) or community director appointments, Residential Life is exploring booking options to make it easier for students to meet with the staff that they need and looking at ways to conduct virtual programming or events that meet state guidelines around physical distancing,” he said.
Despite COVID-19, WSU Housing and Residential Life’s mission remains the same, Michael said.
“Our mission has been to provide a space on campus for any student who wants one. That has not changed for this fall as we incorporate a strategy to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” he said.
As more information becomes available, policies and procedures are adapting, Board said. All updates and more information can be found on the Coronavirus Campus Housing Information page.
Nour Rahal is a contributing writer for The South End. She can be reached at email@example.com
Cover photo by Jonathan Deschaine, multimedia editor for The South End. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org