Students asked to leave dorms amid COVID-19 pandemic

Iba Residence Hall (copy)

Students have been asked to leave the residence halls by April 3.

Amid growing fears surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Oklahoma State University has asked students to leave residence halls and gave students a 12-day period to move out.

The 12-day move out period begins Monday, OSU said Thursday via email. The announcement came one day after OSU announced it will move to all online classes for the rest of the semester.

“We are strongly encouraging a reduced occupancy in on-campus housing for the rest of the spring semester,” the email said. “This decision was made to protect the health of our entire campus community – students, faculty and staff.”

Residents will use an online sign-up form to register for a 1.5 hour slot between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to move all their belongings out of the dorms. Students have been asked to bring as few people with them to move out as possible.

Residents who can’t move out before April 3 have been asked to fill out an online form, called an extension request, explaining why they need to stay on campus. If the request is approved, students will be required to complete a health screening provided by University Health Services and may be asked to relocate to a different dorm. Dining options will be limited for those who remain on campus.

Refunds will be issued to students via their OSU bursar accounts.

The community mentors have been sent home as well, and Residential Life will run with reduced staff in the halls that remain open. Without the community mentors, residents will move out with key envelopes, and they will not be asked to clean their rooms. Residential Life will assess the rooms once students move out, and residents will be charged for any damages.

Alexis Skurnack, a community mentor in Stinchcomb Residence Hall, said she understands the university’s logic, but she thinks the university could have handled the situation differently.

“I would have liked to stay, and I think it’s kind of sad for the people that did want to,” Skurnack said. “I think if they were going to (make people move out), they should’ve announced it before spring break because I feel like it’s going to cause issues trying to bring everybody back to do it.”

Closing the residence halls is the newest action on OSU’s growing list of precautions to avoid an outbreak of COVID-19 on campus, and some students have mixed emotions about the decision.

Wentz resident Gabe Stephens said he’s glad the university is trying to keep students safe, but he is in Stillwater for more than just school. Stephens, originally from Lawton, Oklahoma, is about to start a new job that he needs for experience, but he may have to quit before he starts if he can’t stay on campus.

“They should make some type of way for students who need to stay on campus, they should let them stay,” Stephens said. “I understand that this epidemic is kind of a big deal, so I don’t know if they have much choice, but I think they can figure something out.”

Skurnack encouraged residents to be mindful of other people’s situations when they move out and to make sure to take the proper safety precautions.

“If you’re flexible with your time, pick a time that you think most people would not be able to (move out), especially if they live far away,” Skurnack said.

“Even though it’s stressful to do all of it in such a short amount of time, still be aware that people are coming back from spring break. They’re coming back from their trips and stuff, so take it serious as far as staying away from people.”

news.ed@ocolly.com