(Photo courtesy of UMass Lowell) Students cross in front of one of UMass Lowell dorms called Bourgeois Hall
Starting Oct. 5, roughly 70 more students will be moving on campus throughout the week. The Office of Residence Life (ResLife) announced in an email on Sept. 22 that students who felt that their personal lives and academic success would improve by being on campus could apply by emailing Reslife@uml.edu and that they would place students on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“We were getting a lot of requests of students asking about spring and saying, ‘Hey, it’s not working for me taking classes at home,’” said Erin Keeves, the Associate Director of Residence Life for Housing & Assignments. “We needed to wait a little bit to make sure that what we are doing with the current population on campus is working and everybody is safe. … It was really kind of a student-driven initiative and us bringing it to the table and saying, ‘Hey, we think we are doing okay. Students want to come back, and we have the space to bring them back.’”
The majority of these new residents will be moving into single-person dorms in Leitch and Bourgeois. A few will be moving into on-campus suites and apartments that were still completely empty in Donahue Hall, River Hawk Village and University Suites.
“We started with prioritizing Leitch and Bourgeois for space, and the reason why we went there first is that it is one student per space,” Keeves said. “In Donahue, University Suites and River Hawk Village, (residents are) already kind of creating their little pods within their apartment and suite with each other, so we didn’t feel comfortable — and it didn’t feel right— to try and put another student in that already created space among the students that are already there.”
As of right now, UMass Lowell has had two students test positive since the semester started, one of which Keeves said she believes was a student who was moving in, who then decided to stay home after they got their results. Anybody can check the status of cases on campus using UMass Lowell’s Testing, Tracing, Quarantine & Isolation page on the website.
Keeves said measures to keep students living on campus safe include only assigning one person per room, requiring masks in common spaces, a no guests policy, weekly testing for all students on campus, grab and go dining and dining reservations. Even with new students on campus, Keeves says these rules will remain enforced for the time being.
“We are working to be sure that we keep the community safe, and in inviting these new students back in, we are still being pretty strict,” Keeves said. “We are looking at maybe allowing more common areas or maybe (allowing) UMass Lowell student guests only, but we want to make sure that as we bring these new students onto campus, … the community is still safe.”
Keeves said that no changes would be made to policies surrounding social interaction until after these new students had been on campus for at least two weeks.
Due to technical issues pertaining to the cancelation of housing contracts and petitions, Keeves said that ResLife was unable to have new residents apply through the housing portal, so they decided email would be the most convenient.
“We figured if they are already emailing us to reactivate their contract, we might as well start the conversation and kind of personalize the communication back and forth with the student and kind of get an idea (of) what they are looking for,” Keeves said.
The process was similar back in August as well. Keeves said that once initial residents were given their assignments, ResLife tried to work with students who voiced their concerns about their placement.
“We did a lot of back and forth emails and moved a lot of people. I would like to say that in the end, we pleased everyone that asked, but I am not 100% sure,” Keeves said.
This year the university has required that all students have a meal plan, a policy which Keeves said serves two purposes. The first being that it will ensure students will have access to university food delivery should they test positive and must be isolated to the Inn Conference Center (ICC) or are deemed to have had close contact and must quarantine in their room. The second reason being they hoped it would discourage students from going to restaurants and stores where they could possibly be exposed to COVID-19.
“We know that when we did the scale back, a lot of students deferred to spring, but we are not sure what our housing will look like,” Keeves said. “There are so many factors that play into it and I think a big part of it is what classes look like. … If we have more on-campus classes, we are going to have more students on campus as long as it is safe to do so.”