Student residents in Residential Programs and Services’ unfurnished apartments said they are worried about being kicked out in the middle of their contract periods during the 2020-21 contract year because of the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
IU has seven unfurnished apartment buildings – Tulip Tree, Campus View, Redbud Hill, Banta and Nutt, Evermann, 3rd and Union and University East. Operated by RPS, these locations offer yearlong, 10- month or 12-month contracts rather than semesterly contracts for residence halls.
Junior Marisa Ramos, who lives in Campus View, said she’s concerned about being kicked out this semester because she thinks unfurnished apartments don’t get as much attention from the university as residence halls. She said she wouldn’t have come back to campus, but wanted to keep her roommate company and meet new friends.
“I’ve heard a lot of different things from different people,” she said. “I haven’t really gotten much information about what would happen if we get kicked out, so I feel like the communication is probably not the best.”
RPS plans to allow its residents in unfurnished apartments to stay throughout their contract periods as usual, said Tim Stockton, associate director of apartment housing at RPS.
However, IU cannot rule out the possibility that in the event of a public health emergency, residents might still be asked to leave their apartments, said Kirk White, co-chair of the IU-Bloomington COVID Response Unit.
The university reserves the right to ask residents to vacate or relocate from their apartments in emergency circumstances, according to the Addendum to Indiana University 2020–2021 Unfurnished Apartments Housing Contract.
Such emergency circumstances include IU’s “decisions related to community health and safety, including those related to COVID-19 or other public health or safety emergencies”, the addendum reads. The university will determine this in its sole discretion.
White said these contract terms are to address the unforeseen circumstances that might arise because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said these can include local and state health department orders to shut down the RPS unfurnished apartments, or any extenuating circumstances the university might face.
Whether the unfurnished apartments stay open would be dependent on the public health situation rather than IU’s academic calendar or mode of instruction, White said.
“Our community is kind of unique – for some of these folks it’s their home,” Stockton said. “They don’t have another place to go to.”
IU sophomore Corey Rice said he packed fewer items than he would've before the pandemic to prepare to prepare for when he might need to pack up and return home halfway through his contract .
“It’s a college campus, so I expect that people would just not follow what they should be doing, public health-wise,” he said. “So might as well prepare for the worst.”
White said he has not currently seen any provisions from the local health department asking for the university to shut down its unfurnished apartments in any situation.
He said right now residents don't necessarily have to relocate if COVID-19 cases arise on the same floor or even in the same apartment. Because apartments have more amenities and bedrooms are private, residents have more flexibility to quarantine in place.
RPS will offer assistance for residents who test positive for COVID-19 resident is tested positive for COVID-19 and need to self-isolate, Stockton said. This can include garbage removal and package delivery. With kitchens and bathrooms in their apartments, residents shouldn’t need to leave their apartments during their self-isolation periods.
Residents who tested positive for COVID-19 or are identified as being in close contact with infected individuals are expected to update RPS about their status and whether they can self-isolate in their own apartments, White said.
In case a resident believes they cannot self-isolate where they live, they can request to relocate free of charge to unfurnished apartments set aside specifically for isolation and quarantining. Stockton said these apartments are scattered around in the unfurnished apartment buildings.
Rice said he is more worried about being kicked out than being infected. His roommate, sophomore Joseph Linde, said he is disappointed by the vague communication on the part of the university.
“I’m from the west coast, and I’m really trying not to go all the way back there,” Linde said. “I feel like it’s just a university-wide issue, and I get it — there are a lot of moving parts, so they don’t wanna get too specific. But it’s frustrating still.”
Stockton said RPS will issue a statement soon to residents of unfurnished apartments to clarify their operations this contract year.
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