Vice President of Student Affairs Matt Baker announced plans for Residential Life refunds and relocations to the Board of Regents March 19 following the announcement that all classes will be moved online for the rest of the semester.
For students who need to remain on campus for part of or all of the rest of the semester, Baker said they will be relocated to Forest Village Apartments.
“If we have to isolate somebody because they are sick with COVID-19, it has independent ventilation systems, they have bathrooms and kitchens within the unit,” Baker said.
Compared to a high-rise residence hall with communal floor bathrooms and building-wide kitchens, FVA provides more for students in a self-contained area.
Refunds will be provided for students’ room costs and meal plans for the latter half of the semester if they move off campus.
Baker said costs will depend on the residence hall and meal plan. Costs will be prorated for the days not occupying the room. For students who left for spring break and did not return, they will receive about 50% of what they paid for room and board for the semester.
Vice President of Finance Stacy Carrick said this will cost the University $3.5-4 million, which is not available in the auxiliary budget and may require a dip into reserves.
Regents John Moore and Jason Klint took issue with the University making the decision in regards to housing without consulting the Board the day before its meeting. Moore said because the decision will have such a heavy financial impact and may require a Board-approved draw from reserve funds.
“I’m stunned that the Board played no role in this other than to get after-the-fact emails,” Klint said. “Even on an informal basis, it seems to me that it would have been best practice to at least … we really should have been included — I’m not saying we needed a vote to do any of those things, but I think we really need to think about that, that we should have been a part of that judgement.”
Chair of the Board Marilou Joyner disagreed, supporting the University administration’s exercise of judgement in the midst of a community “shut down” by the coronavirus, and that it is a significant safety issue.
Moore suggested there being a more formal granting of regency powers to University President John Jasinksi in the future in cases of emergency like this for significant financial decisions.
Baker said he was an advocate for making a decision as soon as possible regarding online classes for the sake of students in residence halls.
He said many were uncertain as to when to return to campus to retrieve belongings, with many not wanting to make the trip if they were going to have to return a week or two later for classes or to move out permanently.
“It’s much easier for us to make a plan to clear out the halls now,” Baker said. “If this escalates to the point that it could, we’d rather have people here now than in two weeks.”
Overall, the Board agreed with the decision to move online for the rest of the semester and praised Northwest faculty for their creativity and flexibility in chaotic circumstances.
“With things escalating so quickly and all the questions from the students and faculty, they felt it was better for the student learning process to go on and make the decision so students could get settled in and they could plan their classes for however long that happened to be. They thought by prolonging that, it would just hurt the learning process,” Provost Jamie Hooyman said.
Hooyman said the Provost’s Council voted 22-0 to move online for the rest of the semester.