Department of Housing Director discusses plans for Fall Quarter

FILE+%E2%80%94+Sophomore+Amber+Gray+moved+from+her+hometown+in+Texas+to+live+on+campus+at+DePaul+for+her+freshman+year.+As+of+Tuesday%2C+June+30%2C+at+4%3A30+p.m.%2C+the+state+of+Texas+is+reporting+6%2C975+new+cases%2C+bringing+the+total+case+count+to+159%2C986%2C+which+makes+some+students+from+the+state+reluctant+to+travel+in+order+to+move+back+on+campus.

Alayne Trinko

FILE — Sophomore Amber Gray moved from her hometown in Texas to live on campus at DePaul for her freshman year. As of Tuesday, June 30, at 4:30 p.m., the state of Texas is reporting 6,975 new cases, bringing the total case count to 159,986, which makes some students from the state reluctant to travel in order to move back on campus.

As Gov. J.B. Pritzker prepares to move Illinois into phase 4 of the state’s reopening, students who plan to return to live on DePaul’s campus have lingering questions about how the university plans to keep students safe on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rick Moreci, the director of housing, dining and student centers at DePaul answered The DePaulia’s questions around the department’s plans for fall quarter. Here are his responses.

  1. Seton and Corcoran are CLOSED for fall quarter. Will these facilities be used for students/faculty who test positive for COVID-19? If so, how will these facilities be sanitized?

“Yes, for at least Fall quarter, Seton and Corcoran will be closed, meaning no students will be assigned to live there. Additionally, the Sanctuary Townhomes will be closed as well. Different colleges and universities across the country have taken different approaches to reduce capacity in the residence halls, thereby also reducing density. DePaul’s approach is to close down the two traditional style halls that have community style bathrooms, meaning several students on a floor sharing one bathroom. We felt this had a potentially higher risk of virus exposure and therefore we are promoting safety by not using those halls for regularly assigned students. The Townhomes are also higher occupancy units (seven students per townhome) and so it made sense to take these offline. All three of these residence halls are available for us to be able to use for students to isolate if they test positive for COVID-19 or quarantine if they are exposed to COVID. And yes, we will have a whole set of procedures of how and when to use these buildings, cleaning them, and how to care for our students who must stay in a room for an extended period of time. [There are] too many procedural details to list here but yes, we feel as ready as we can be to deal with this if it happens.”

  1. Are there new policies/procedures in place to sanitize residence halls on campus? If so, what are those policies/procedures? How can students help?

“Facility Operations has been working hard for months now to prepare for caring for the campus this fall. There are several new procedures and protocols for cleaning all of campus, not just the residence halls. There are procedures for cleaning a space where a student who tests positive may have been, to include their dorm room and bathroom. However, all of the procedures in the world will not mean much if faculty, staff and students do not do their part and follow all CDC guidelines for self-care and self-sanitization. In Housing, we will be providing sanitizing solutions in all common area spaces to include lounges, kitchens, laundry rooms, etc. It will be up to students to take advantage of these supplies to help keep areas clean for them and or their fellow peers.”

  1. Will students be required to get tested for COVID-19 prior to move-in if they are living on campus?

“This question cannot be answered yet. We are still in discussion about all things testing and contact tracing. We will have answers and plans but we are not quite there yet.”

  1. Can you confirm how much occupancy has been reduced for each building on campus?

“We are reducing the total on campus capacity by about 25%. Most of that reduction comes from the closing of Seton, Corcoran and Townhomes. Beyond that there were a few minor tweaks here and there to reduce a bit more density in some apartment units but nothing that is statistically significant. We will have nearly 1800 students living in Lincoln Park in the fall and another nearly 400 living at University Center in the loop where we did not make any occupancy changes, but where we also have plans to care for those residents who may become sick or exposed.”

  1. What revisions were made on 5/15/2020 to the Terms and Conditions for DePaul Campus Housing? What inspired the revisions?

“We made one significant change to the Terms and Conditions for next year. It is a clause we have never needed before, but after what happened last March and sending everyone home, we wanted to be transparent in case this happens again. Here is the exact language we added:

‘In the event DePaul/UC Facility Manager determines in its sole discretion that some or all campus housing must be closed for all or any portion of Academic Year 2020-21 due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and that there will no longer be housing available for the student, DePaul/UC Facility Manager may terminate this Agreement at any time before or during the term upon notice to the student; in such case, any prepayments or housing charges with respect to dates after the selected termination date shall be refunded to the student.’”

  1. If a student falls ill to COVID-19 and needs to cancel their housing, will the $1,500 cancellation fee still apply to that student?

“Student Housing always works with students who have circumstances which may cause them to cancel their housing. Certainly falling ill to COVID-19 is one such reason that we would work with students in terms of their cancellation. Each case is situational, but any student needing to cancel can always appeal with our office.”

For follow-up questions, comments or concerns regarding housing on campus, DePaul’s department of housing can be reached via phone at 773-325-7196 or email at housing@depaul.edu.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.