If you live in RPS housing and expected that RPS would have a clear and helpful response to COVID-19, you would be incorrect. RPS housing has compounded the stress and uncertainty of this situation through its inconsistency.
I live in an unfurnished on-campus apartment and went home for the original one-week spring break, expecting to be able to return to Bloomington for two weeks of online classes. As we all know, face-to-face instruction has been suspended for the semester, and RPS asked that students move out by last Friday.
The day after the initial announcement, the date was moved to Monday for unspecified reasons, but the instructions were the same: Don’t rush back to Bloomington for your things. You don’t have to retrieve them until May 1. Residents were instructed to make a move-out appointment, but the instructions still stressed that we need not rush.
I read all the emails that came my way, and when the one with the move-out appointment link came, I went to make an appointment as instructed. I was shocked to find that for my building, the only available appointment was Tuesday at 8:00 a.m. When I checked back later, there were two more for Thursday.
I reached out to RPS about moving out, and because I was supposed to live in my RPS apartment at University East until July, asked if I would be able to get essentials and leave furniture until the summer.
I was told by the Director for Administration at RPS that would be fine, but that I should “retrieve my items as quickly as possible,” preferably before Monday when I would be locked out of my apartment until May, in direct contradiction to the emphatic “do not rush” instructions. When I followed up by phone, I was told that I would not be able to return for May through July, in direct contradiction to what I had been told via another email chain.
This is a confusing and novel problem for everyone involved, including RPS administration. But the constant changing of dates and expectations is compounding the already-high stress of dealing with a global pandemic, especially given how important the questions surrounding housing and property are to many students.
It is dishonest and unprofessional to urge students not to rush and then tell those who have questions about their specific circumstances the exact opposite. It is irresponsible to tell students they will have summer housing over email and then tell them over the phone that they will not.
RPS residents deserve consistency and clear answers, and they should not have to beg for them. Personally, I am lucky enough to live in-state and have family that was able to help me move out at a moment’s notice. Many RPS residents, for a wide variety of personal reasons ranging from geography to family situation, are not so fortunate, and it is a slap in the face to demand this level of adaptability from residents.
RPS is allowing students to petition to stay, but not all of those petitions will be approved. Students with abusive home lives, financially challenging situations or who simply feel unsafe getting on a plane during a pandemic will be forced to return home.
The emails telling students they had to leave by Friday, then Monday, came only about a week in advance. Even with the petition to stay option, asking students to make arrangements to return home safely in such a short period of time puts student health and safety at risk.
The emotional, physical and financial health of students is not sufficiently considered by the timeline and expectations of this process. IU is home, and RPS needs to take that seriously by ensuring that students who consider RPS housing to be their home are not left confused, misled and scrambling.
Kaitlyn Radde (she/her) is a sophomore studying political science. She plans to pursue a career in public interest law.