As UNLV prepares to shift to remote teaching when classes resume after spring break on March 23, many students are left with decisions to make regarding residential living. UNLV Housing and Residential Life has plans in place both for students who choose to leave campus, and for those who choose to remain.
The first thing to know is that campus operations are not shutting down with the move to remote teaching. The second is that “we are not just pulling these plans out of a hat,” said Richard Clark, assistant vice president for Campus Life. “Even though the coronavirus is having unprecedented impacts around the country, we know and follow best practices. We’ve ramped up when flu epidemics have hit universities before, and we began preparing for the possibility that coronavirus would come to our country weeks ago.”
Remaining in the Residence Halls
Students who remain will still have a home in the residence halls. The families of some students are more concerned that traveling back to their hometowns is risky. Other students really don’t have that choice.
"We're trying to make it as convenient as possible for those students who don't have somewhere else to go — to make sure that we're cognizant of anyone experiencing housing insecurity," Orlando White, assistant director of Residential Education Housing & Residential Life. "We're still offering them the same services that we would normally provide. They can remain in their current room assignment. And the Dining Commons will remain open."
Residential facilities are on an increased cleaning rotation with extra attention to ensure high-touch surfaces are cleaned. The Dining Commons is taking precautions like increasing how frequently tables and other surfaces are cleaned, and eliminating self-service options like the salad bar. The Student Union restaurants, meanwhile, have put a pause on refilling personal reusable cups.
While it's unclear yet how many international and out-of-state students will choose to remain, White stressed that those who have housing insecurity, for any reason, will have a place at UNLV. There are currently roughly 100 international students, and 200 students from states that aren't immediate neighbors of Nevada.
If students choose to self-isolate, options will be made available to have meals delivered.
As clarity emerges on the number of students who remain in the residence hall, it's possible that to better ensure the security and safety of students, residents will be relocated from one hall to another. Housing and Residential Life is also examining whether to spread students out into single-occupancy rooms as the situation develops, but currently, those who have roommates will remain with those roommates.
"There's some — not panic — but not calm either," Residence Hall Association vice president Marcus Haynes said. The pre-med freshman from Chicago, is remaining on campus through the end of the semester. "Everything is kind of topsy turvy. Students are wondering, should I leave, should I not? What should I do? But the university has been pretty straightforward. The student leaders and resident assistants are really just trying their best to assist residents as best they can with the move-out process and keeping the residential space safe and secure."
Leaving the Residence Halls
Students opting to leave campus will be released from their housing contracts, no questions asked, and no cancellation fees. Room and board will be refunded on a prorated basis, depending on the actual move-out date.
To begin the move-out process, students are advised to contact the Housing & Residential Life office. The office will be extending its hours until 8 p.m. to help facilitate students in the process or answer questions.
Through a partnership with storage and moving company Zippy Shell and a new contract with U-Haul, students who need help moving items will have those costs covered.
'A Sense of Normalcy'
For those who wish to remain, the experience will be different from what they're accustomed to. There’s a lot more educational programming around things like social distancing practices. And activities are shifting from big gatherings of 60 people in the common room to esports tournaments that can be played from individual rooms.
“The other thing we’re trying to do is manage fear and anxiety,” Clark said. “We’re connecting students even more to resources like CAPS (UNLV’s counseling and psychological services). We’re educating students to not to react to partial tweets because that soundbite is not enough.”
People like junior hospitality student and Residence Hall Association president Simone Beaseley and halls' resident advisors will be on hand to help ease the transition.
"One of my main concerns is helping to keep a sense of normalcy," Beaseley, whose family is living in Washington State, said. "Even though things are different, students are still paying to go here and still want a college experience. The scary part is, you truly don't know what is going to happen. Everything's changing every 20 minutes. So that's one of my big goals, to help to provide some normalcy here on campus."