LSU RAs, current students and alumni created a petition and social media graphics in response to the current housing expectation that requires freshmen to live on campus despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marketing senior and RA McKay Stevens created and posted a series of graphics on her social media Sunday which laid out LSU Residential Life’s plans to reopen on-campus housing at full capacity in the fall. The post highlighted the requirement that LSU freshmen live on campus and the current cancellation fee of $500.
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“The purpose of creating and sharing the graphics was to highlight the unfair and unjust consequences that residents may soon be faced with in a way that could be simplified and understood,” Stevens said.
The post included a graphic titled “What We Demand,” which listed two changes that Stevens and her colleagues hoped would change about the housing contract and requirement.
The first demand was that all first-year students should be exempt from the requirement of on-campus housing this academic year, if they choose, for their comfort and health. The second demand was that the cancellation fee be waived for this year to ensure that students are financially protected in the event of an outbreak in the residence halls.
“We’re advocating for the financial protection of students to be explicitly stated within this year’s housing contract,” Stevens said. “We’re additionally advocating for the removal of the housing obligation for first-year students entirely. We would additionally like to remove all cancellation fees and application processes associated with choosing not to live on campus.”
LSU Residential Life charged early move-out fees to students who left their on-campus housing due to COVID-19.
Stevens posted the graphics on her Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. She said the posts have been shared and liked by hundreds of people. She is working with a group of LSU residents, RAs and alumni to share the information and create a petition to promote change within the housing requirements and contract.
“We see lots of value in public awareness and the ongoing sharing of this information and holding LSU accountable for the ways that they should be caring about their students,” Stevens said.
She said the intention of this petition was to give a voice to the students and their family members who see flaws in LSU’s methods of protecting students physically and financially. At the time this article was written, 1,368 people signed the petition out of the 1,500 signature goal.
“I’m signing because I lived on campus my freshman year and I am confident that it would be absolutely impossible to socially distance when student housing is at full occupancy,” one supporter commented under the petition.
Stevens said the housing contract currently requires freshmen to live on-campus and after the start date of classes, the decision to leave on-campus housing could result in paying up to 100% of the housing costs for both semesters. Until the start of school, Stevens said the cancellation fee is $500, even if the decision is made based on health and safety concerns.
Along with the graphic and petitions, a public letter addressed to President Galligan, Executive Vice President & Provost Stacia Haynie, Vice President for Student Affairs Jeremiah Shinn and Director of Residential Life Bill Mattera is being shared across social media.
“As students attending LSU in these uncertain times of a global pandemic, we feel that LSU’s strategy of reopening campus housing almost entirely disregards the likelihood of consequential events, such as a spike in cases on campus or the possibility of once again evacuating on-campus housing altogether,” the letter reads.
The letter states the same demands written in the petition and social media posts and is signed as from “concerned Students and RAs of LSU.”
An LSU RA who spoke to the Reveille on the condition of anonymity said though living on campus can be beneficial for freshmen, it is not always the right fit for all incoming students. She said staying healthy should be the top priority.
“I hope that LSU will waive the living on campus requirement for all freshmen without requiring students to submit requests for exemptions and allow residents to cancel their contracts at any time during the semester without fees,” the RA said.
LSU Residential Life Assistant Vice President Steve Waller said capacity is reduced in three-person and four-person rooms.
"Just as students are concerned for their well-being and safety in these unprecedented times, we are too," Waller said.
Waller said Residential Life has always offered first-year students an exemption process to the housing expectation and a contract appeals process. He also said Residential Life delayed the cancellation penalty twice for all residents and offered resident assistants "no-penalty cancellations" if they chose to cancel their employment contract.
"We recognize that these are unprecedented times and to provide a safe and healthy community environment everyone must do their part," Waller said."It starts with the basic responsibilities: wear your face covering, maintain physical distancing, cover that cough or sneeze and wash your hands."
Stevens said entering a housing contract during COVID-19 is “uncharted territory” for everyone, and the housing contract should be more fluid to reflect this uncertainty.
“As a Res Life employee, I know that these are reasonable housing expectations and that they have purpose during a normal school year,” Stevens said. “However, with the high risk associated with shared and crowded spaces of on-campus living during this pandemic, retaining these same expectations is careless and it’s completely dismissive of the potential consequences, including on-campus outbreaks.”