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Housing and Residential Education aims to keep students connected despite being miles apart

More than 5,000 students moved out of their residence halls because of the coronavirus oytbreak, leaving about 1,000 still on campus. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

When students left for spring break, most didn’t expect that it would be the last time they would see their roommates or even their hallmates.

Now, having their move-out day halfway through the spring semester, the challenge is to learn how to keep those connections from the close quarters of their own homes. Despite the challenges, Housing and Residential Education is trying to bridge that issue.

More than 5,000 students moved out of their residence halls, leaving only about 1,000 students on campus, according to Assistant Dean and Director of Residential Education Julie Leos.

Housing and Residential Education created “Bulls in the Cloud,” a Canvas module bringing together all residence halls through activities like live-streamed events, including live meditation sessions and career readiness, as well as the ability to ask questions of staff members during their office hours.

“We decided that it is the right thing to do philosophically, to help students through the rest of this year, if they live with us,” Leos said. “And so that is irrespective of if they decide that they’re going to stay on campus or if they’ve left campus.

“We’re going to continue to support them and connect with them and see what they need, and connect them to resources, just like if they were living in our halls, but we’re going to do that through Canvas.”

Of the 6,300 on-campus residents, more than 5,300 accepted the invitation to join the online module.

After canceling all events for the remainder of the semester as well as closing all communal lounges, Housing and Residential Education will be closing all residence halls April 6 while offering refunds to students who vacate their dorms.

Exceptions will be granted for students who don’t have other housing options to relocate to including international students unable to return to their home country students without reliable internet access and students who have family members who were exposed to the virus. 

The students who decide to stay on campus must obtain approval from Housing and Residential Education. They might be later relocated from their current dorm to a different building, however, their housing rate will remain the same.

All refunds will appear in each student’s Oasis account by April 10. The refund will be issued for the time they will not be on campus, from March 23 through the remainder of the housing agreement, on May 8.

For students who are currently off campus and want to return to move out, they must schedule a move-out date and time through the Housing Portal. During their move-out day, they can bring a maximum of two people to assist and will have two hours to complete the express checkout.

Despite having their residential experience cut short, Leos said she hopes to remain connected to students as a way to help them during the transition. 

“The concerns they have don’t just go away, so we need to make sure that we’re continuing to stay connected and continuing to share with them that USF is a place that supports them and wants them to be successful,” Leos said. “That’s our goal.

“That’s what we hope to do over the next two weeks, three weeks, four weeks, however long we have to do it. We’re going to continue to do it because it’s the right thing to do.”