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Fearing University shutdown, on-campus students seek off-campus housing

| Friday, August 28, 2020

Following the announcement that Notre Dame would be implementing at least two weeks of online classes in an effort to flatten the curve of coronavirus cases, there were murmurs among many students who thought the University would shut the campus down after the two weeks. This unease and the possibility of being told to leave campus before the semester is over has led many students residing on campus to look into off-campus housing.

Junior Jim Broderick said he and his friends talked about looking into an off-campus place Tuesday, Aug. 18, before University President Fr. John Jenkins’ spoke to the student body.

“When we saw that Monday results were so high, we were like ‘Oh shoot. Let’s look into [housing]’ just to get an idea of what’s available and what our options are,” Broderick said.

Broderick said he considered living off-campus before the year started but ultimately decided to stay on campus because of his role as vice president of O’Neill Family Hall.

Currently, Broderick said he is in preliminary research and waiting to see the University’s next steps.

“I just don’t know the University’s plan,” Broderick said. “So it’s kind of like a waiting game to see how things will shake out in terms of what their plans are like how the case COVID cases look on campus.”

Broderick said he is more optimistic about staying on campus for the entire semester than he was when classes first started.

“I think from a logistical standpoint, it would be very complicated for the University and extensive,” Broderick said. “And I think that students kind of got the message that [the University] was trying to send with the two weeks of online classes now as almost like a warning to kind of behave because otherwise, they will take drastic action.”

Meanwhile, junior Lizzie Cunningham is not convinced that students will be living on campus until the end of the fall semester. She said these sentiments have led her to extensively search for an off-campus apartment.

“My friends and I were talking and none of us really thought that we were going to make it all the way to November, which was really sad to think because we’ve been away from each other for so long,” Cunningham said. “But we were all thinking we want to stay together if we do get sent home. So we weren’t really actively looking but we were like, if we get sent home, we want to go home. We’d rather find somewhere to stay together.”

Junior Makira Walton echoed this skepticism, and said in an email that she is “not confident at all” the University will remain open for on-campus students.

Walton — a resident of Pangborn Hall after she could not return to her home hall, Pasquerilla West Hall — said she is currently in the research phase of searching for an off-campus apartment along with five of her friends.

However, apartment space close to campus is a popular commodity. Cunningham said she and her friends were supposed to view an apartment at University Edge last week, but the complex filled up, and they were waitlisted. She cited Notre Dame renting out apartments to quarantine students as one of the reasons she thinks housing isn’t readily available.

“Right now, we actually don’t have anywhere anymore that we’re looking,” Cunningham said. “We’re slowly trying to find new places, so we’re kind of in a worse spot now than we were the beginning.”

Cunningham has been in contact with the Office of Residential Life to find out how her housing contract would be affected by her decision to move off campus. She said it was unclear if she would get her money back since she signed an incentive contract her sophomore year where she pledged to live on campus through the end of senior year for a discount on room and board.

In a statement to The Observer, Leah Kicinski, assistant director of residential life, said students may cancel their housing contract at any time by contacting residential life.

“Room and board will be prorated, and the cancellation may be subject to a $500 fee,” Kicinski said in regards to refunds on housing.

While on-campus students are still living on campus during the two-week virtual instruction period, the fate of the semester remains somewhat in limbo as students await the news of how instruction will look going forward.

In the event that the University does send students back to their hometowns, Cunningham said she believes the University should play an active role in assisting students with other local housing options.

“I think the University needs to realize that some people can’t go home. Just because they’re not comfortable there, and it’s like not safe for them, even,” Cunningham said. “I think it would be great if they were like, ‘We can help you if you’re not comfortable’.”

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About Alysa Guffey

Alysa is a sophomore pursuing a major in history with a minor in journalism, ethics and democracy. While she calls Breen-Phillips her home on campus, she is originally from Indianapolis. She currently serves as an associate news editor.

Contact Alysa