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RIT shifts to distance learning, orders all on-campus students to vacate by April 5.

Updated: Sep 24, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the United States, many colleges and universities have since closed their doors to the public and moved their traditional courses over to alternative means such as over the Internet.

“I agree with online classes,” Madigan Mason, a Web and Mobile major at the Rochester Institute of Technology, explains, “I would understand shutting buses down and whatnot. Personally, I think the best thing to do would’ve been to isolate the campus.”

And while RIT is among the many colleges and universities that have shifted to distance learning for the remainder of their current academic semesters, they have also taken to essentially evicting almost all of their on-campus student residents.

“We have made the decision to close university housing,” university president David C. Munson Jr. explained in an email to the RIT community. “Students residing in university housing must vacate their assigned space NO LATER THAN APRIL 5. Any students now on campus and residing in university housing will be asked to ensure their Spring Residential Plan is updated on the MyLife portal. Those with extenuating circumstances, who cannot leave and have no safe place to go, should indicate that in their Spring Residential Plan in order to make arrangements.”

Angeline Hamele, a first year Applied Modern Languages and Cultures major on the RIT campus, was terrified by this forced eviction, as it would leave her both homeless and vulnerable due to being immunocompromised.

“I've had to contact around five or six people just to figure out my situation,” Hamele explained. “I've repeatedly had to share my situation and after a day of expressing that I literally had no place to go, they put me on a "list". They don't know who, what, when, or where I'd be staying yet. It's a mess.”

Though students like Madigan Mason have been handling the shift to distance learning well, some have also shown immense frustration from a communications perspective, wishing that they would have been “kept in the loop.”

“I submitted the request form as soon as I realized,” Mason explained. “After no response for a while I emailed directly, went in person to housing, and made a call to the hotline. Nobody had any answers. This morning I did get a response: they really don't want people to stay, but it seems they may have to? I wasn't given any info other than ‘but y'know everything is gonna be closed right?’ and ‘what about friends?’ It'll be lonely on campus."

“I believe they should have had procedures and a committee in place so that this would have gone a lot more smoothly, Hamele explained. “They should've made correspondence to their disabled and/or homeless students to ensure their safety.”

Though the students living on-campus have to vacate by no later than April 5, students living in off-campus housing complexes such as Park Point and the Lodge aren’t being asked to leave. For on-campus residents who have nowhere else to go, university officials ask that you indicate the circumstances you are in by filling out the Spring Residential Plan on the MyLife portal.

“While I recognize it's necessary to shut things down,” Mason explains, “housing in particular is a terrible idea to remove, and the way everything is being handled has left everyone in the dark with a lot of uncertainty. Nobody really knows what's going on and you can't get a straight answer about what's happening. So it's really hard to make any kind of plans. And while RIT promised things like work and housing exceptions, it seems like they're making it purposefully difficult if not impossible.“

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