OPINION: WSU needs to provide more housing assistance to students

COVID-19 forced students out of dorms; WSU should offer assistance

WSU+needs+to+offer+more+assistance+and+help+to+students+who+were+kicked+off+campus+because+of+COVID-19.+

LAUREN PETTIT

WSU needs to offer more assistance and help to students who were kicked off campus because of COVID-19.

SARAH DANIELS, Evergreen columnist

Like it or not, WSU has decided to offer as many in-person courses as possible. WSU administration consistently, and I believe truthfully, claims that students’ lives are a priority. However, there are certainly some eyebrow-raising reactions that make it seem like maybe WSU wasn’t prepared to deal with the side-effects of resuming in-person courses.

With in-person classes reduced significantly this upcoming semester, students either voluntarily decided or were forced to vacate residence halls. This is to comply with Governor Jay Inslee’s plan for colleges opening this fall.

Jill Creighton, assistant vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students, said about 1,000 students were displaced from residence halls, but the exact numbers are “complex” because some students are wait-listed.

There were three primary groups of students WSU looked at when considering ending contracts: freshmen, students who lived in residence halls last school year and planned to this upcoming year, as well as students who did not formerly live in a residence hall but planned to this upcoming year.

Freshmen are required to live on campus excluding any extreme situations and received an email explaining they will be able to live on campus according to the First Year Live in Rule (FLIR) as single occupants.

The second group – students who lived in dorms last year – received an email explaining that “not every student” would be able to live in the residence hall they chose and should plan on finding another living situation. Those who wanted to remain in a residence hall were added to a waitlist. Students who had not lived in a residence hall before were flatly told they would not be residing in WSU residence halls this fall. The latter two cases were directed to the WSU off-campus living website to assist in the “transition” to off-campus living this fall.

Creighton said “many” students wanted to come back to campus and cited a few different publications of students’ opinions, such as College Reaction.

“Bringing students back onto campus is making us really think about the best way to do that,” she said. “In a way, that will work for the community.”

Creighton continued to explain that these decisions aren’t random and are well-explored and thoroughly thought-out.

“All the decisions that WSU makes … [we] must take into account the directives from the state, local, and federal health authorities — which include Gov. Inslee and Whitman County Public Health – when making decisions about the university related to COVID-19,” Creighton said.

From what I’ve seen in terms of the changes happening, and from my research of guidelines and compliance to write this column, WSU is complying with those guidelines swimmingly. I do feel that if I was living in a dorm, I would feel slightly less germaphobic about sharing a floor with the same people for a year in the midst of a pandemic.

However.

It seems to me that WSU decided to open and wasn’t prepared to deal with the consequences of opening. I, thankfully, was not slated to live in a residence hall this fall. If I discovered the cost of returning to some sort of in-person course was my living arrangements and security, I would be livid.

Students were given something close to a six-week warning to find new housing, and I know plenty of students who rely on loans or scholarships to pay for their living expenses and food expenses.

Granted, you can still use those student loans for apartments and groceries, but you can’t ask for more than what WSU has deemed the cost of attendance for the term or year you’re requesting loans for. WSU quotes about $6,000 for living expenses even when the average cost for an off-campus apartment in Pullman would rack up $4,000 in rent for the fall semester without considering food. It seems unlikely that the cost difference would even out smoothly. Unfortunately, there usually is no way to get a physical check from your scholarship to pay for your apartment or groceries.

Klara Messersmith, sophomore zoology major, not only lamented the frustration of finding an apartment this close to the start of semester but also said the communication from WSU was extremely poor.

“I thought WSU did a really poor job letting people know housing details … We had to scramble to find an apartment,” she said. “It was pretty crappy.”

She also said that even if she and her roommate had taken a chance and joined the waitlist as they were both residence hall residents last year, they probably wouldn’t have gotten into a residence hall – so they had no choice but to find another option now.

At the end of the day, WSU is returning to in-person classes this fall and you can feel however you want about that decision; we can only do our best to adjust to wearing masks and attesting daily that we feel well enough to attend our class.