CORONAVIRUS

More than 500 students remain in Iowa's public university residence halls

UI, ISU, UNI taking measures to keep them safe from coronavirus

University of Iowa junior Kiley Kovac (left) and senior Emily Studnicka take a walk last Friday during a break from stud
University of Iowa junior Kiley Kovac (left) and senior Emily Studnicka take a walk last Friday during a break from studying for online classes in Iowa City. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
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Although most of the nearly 20,000 students who were living in one of Iowa’s public university residence halls have moved out for the spring semester, about 570 are staying put after appealing to administrators with extenuating circumstances.

University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and University of Northern Iowa in mid-March announced plans to move all in-person courses online and to vacate all residence halls in hopes of preventing the spread of COVID-19.

That announcement forced most of the universities’ on-campus students — many in their first year at college — to return early to their homes. But since some students — like international students — were unable to get home or find another place to live, the campuses agreed to allow some to stay in their halls.

In doing so, administrators are taking extra measures to keep those students safe.

“Those students who remain on campus we have moved to apartment style living so that they can each have access to their own kitchen and private bathroom facilities,” UNI President Mark Nook told the Board of Regents. “We continue to operate dining facilities on a takeout basis for them.”

Of Iowa State’s nearly 10,500 students who were living in the residence halls, 320 remain on campus, according to a February report to the Board of Regents.

Of UNI’s nearly 3,200 on-campus residents, about 150 are remaining, Nook said.

Of the more than 6,300 students living in the UI residence halls, 91 are expected to stay, according to UI spokeswoman Anne Bassett.

“This number will likely continue to evolve as students solidify their plans or the ability to travel home changes,” Bassett said.

The students staying in the halls had to apply to be able to do so.

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On the UI campus, administrators said “only students who meet the criteria for highly exceptional situations are allowed to stay in the residence halls after March 23. This includes current residents who do not have a permanent residence or cannot return to their permanent residence, including some international students.”

UI PRIVATE ROOMS

Students staying on the UI campus were relocated to either the Stanley or Daum halls, both on the east side of campus, flanking Burge Residence Hall. No students will be housed on the west side of campus, where the UI Hospitals and Clinics is located.

Every UI student staying the halls is assigned a single room and bathroom that locks. Each also will get a microwave and refrigerator.

Although most UI campus dining facilities are closed, Burge will continue serving meals — although all will be served in to-go containers, according to UI Housing and Dining.

“Customers will not be able to remain in the location to ensure the principles of social distancing are observed,” according to the Housing and Dining website.

Additionally, according to Bassett, staff are checking in regularly with students staying in the halls and offering technology and other supports “while honoring social distancing.”

ISU STATUS

At Iowa State, the campus has provided each student staying on campus with a refrigerator and microwave, according to ISU President Wendy Wintersteen.

“ISU Dining Services has developed creative ways to support students while practicing social distancing, including a food pickup system,” she said. “This has been an incredibly complex situation.”

ISU Dining also is upholding its end of dining contracts — as much as it can — for about 500 students total, including some who live in campus apartments and off campus.

It’s doing so by providing daily pickup service at three designated locations.

The campuses also are providing drive-up Wi-Fi service at various locations, given that students are being asked to complete all their spring semester coursework online.

CLASSES AT HOME

Jake Snedic, a 19-year-old UI freshman who moved out of his dorm room in March, has set up a makeshift classroom in his home in Naperville, Ill., alongside the pop-up office and desk of his dad and brother.

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And although it’s taken some getting used to, Snedic said he feels more productive doing his virtual coursework at home than in the residence halls — where there are more distractions.

“I would do homework in my dorm sometimes, and there would be people in the study lounge, and I would talk to them,” he said.

As far as safety goes, Snedic said, he thinks the campuses made the right call in shuttering their halls — whether students like it or not.

“I’ve gotten more sick in the residence halls this year than I ever had before, just because you’re living in such close quarters with people,” he said. “If there were something to happen in the residence halls, it would be really bad. It probably would spiral really quickly.”

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

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