As Plattsburgh State students leave campus for the remainder of the semester during the coronavirus pandemic, Campus Housing and Community Living is preparing for real possibilities — the use of vacant residence halls on-campus as additional hospital space, the relocation of students remaining on campus and the storage of dorm room belongings left behind.
Housing originally allowed students to return to campus and officially move out of their dorms until April 5. Students were required to fill out a Campus Housing Move Out form to indicate what day they would be returning so their ID card could allow them access into their residence hall. They could then fill out another Express Check Out form, accessible by scanning a QR code on fliers posted in the residence halls to officially check-out of their room for the semester.
But that deadline was changed March 22 when an email sent to all students from Director Steve Matthews said if students had not already made arrangements with Housing to move out before March 29, they should not come back to collect their things.
“Please know you do not need to travel to Plattsburgh at this time,” Matthews said in the email. “No student is compelled to return now.”
While the check-out procedures associated with the April 5 deadline are still in effect, there is also no longer a requirement to check-out before that deadline in order to receive a refund credit for housing and meal plan costs.
The email also states that students who can no longer move out of their dorm rooms themselves will have their belongings put into storage for them at no additional cost. Although the email said this would begin last week, Matthews said Housing has not done so yet but will soon.
“We have not yet packed any student’s belongings,” Matthews said. “We will start that process shortly. The process we will use to identify and document the items packed has not yet been finalized, but I assure students that we will use the utmost care and treat everything as if it was our own. We value and respect their belongings and know just how important they are to each student.”
Matthews said the guidelines regarding storage for students who wish to store items over the summer are still in place, but storing items that Housing packs up from whole dorm rooms may follow different procedures. The ideal location would be Algonquin Dining Hall, an unused, secure and climate-controllable space for storing multiple items.
According to Matthews’ original email, local and state health officials have indicated a possible need for dorm space to increase the bed capacity of nearby hospitals. Therefore, Housing is preparing to give new room assignments to students. The vacant rooms of each potential residence hall, which could be Whiteface, Mason, Macomb, Wilson and Hood, are being cleaned and the combination locks changed to accommodate students moving in. Matthews said once relocated, each student will have their own room and their own designated bathroom “pod” for their use only.
As of yesterday, about 194 students are remaining on-campus, according to Matthews. A majority of them are international students who can’t easily travel home during the pandemic, or students under special circumstances who don’t have other living arrangements to go back to.
“As we have spaces cleaned and prepped for these students, we will give them information about their relocation,” Matthews said. “Once a student is given a new assignment, they will be given 48 hours to relocate.”
Another email from Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success Bryan Hartman was sent to all students March 25, reiterating the need for students with only special circumstances to continue living on-campus.
However, that need — and each student — is now under review.
“The ability to stay is allowable only for those international students who cannot return home and those who are in a personal situation where no home return is possible or exists,” Hartman wrote. “If you are in this category, the Student Health and Counseling Center staff will be calling you soon. They will be reviewing your situation directly. As that information is collected, a review group will meet to determine whether there is a sufficient reason for such students to remain on campus. If the answer is yes, you may stay.”
But if that answer is no, the student is allowed to file an appeal to Hartman, who will then make the final decision. More information on how to do so can be found on the Campus Housing and Community Living website under COVID-19 Housing Procedures.
Matthews said the decision to review student situations was “made as the guidance changed to be more restrictive.”
“This was done with an eye toward public health requirements more than anything,” he said.
Matthews also said there were some complications with students not responding to the health center’s contact.
“We discovered some students who did not have permission, and also discovered rooms where students had left and never checked out, and some rooms where there were student belongings but no one was there,” Matthews said.
After Housing had reached out to them a second time, explaining that they now needed to seek permission to stay on campus, Matthews said any student who was still living on campus but had not sought permission would be notified by Housing that they would terminate door access to their residence hall until the student takes action to receive permission.
“The evolving landscape of the response to this virus has been difficult on all of us. We understand the frustration of getting different messaging as things change. We want our students and the greater Plattsburgh community to be as safe as possible, and are looking forward to serving those students who remain in our residence halls and assisting them. We want our students to know how much we miss all of them.”
Email Emma Vallelunga at firstname.lastname@example.org