No part of the USF community has been unaffected by the global COVID-19 pandemic. In the coming weeks, the Foghorn will be looking at the experiences of multiple groups in our community as they navigate these unprecedented circumstances.
This week, staff writer Annika Dahlberg reports on the experiences of her fellow freshmen as they moved out of their dorms and ended their first year on campus sooner than planned.
Following USF President Paul J. Fitzgerald’s email announcement on March 14 that remote instruction would be extended through the end of the semester, students living on campus were given a week to move out of their residence halls. In an email, Student Housing and Residential Education (SHaRE) announced that all students were to vacate their dorms by March 21 or face fines, with few exceptions.
Due to President Fitzgerald’s initial email on March 10 that stated that classes would be moved online for two weeks, until March 29, many students canceled their plans to return to campus and instead chose to return home or extend their spring break arrangements. For these students, the March 14 email came with little time to update their plans in order to return to campus.
The order for on-campus residents to move out of their rooms particularly affected freshmen, nearly all of whom live on campus.
After the original March 10 email, business major Nico Martin had booked a flight to return home, planning to return to campus after the two weeks of remote instruction was up. After receiving the second email on March 14, he had one day to move out before his flight. “FedEx and UPS closed at 5 p.m. on Saturday, and weren’t open Sunday, and my plane left at 5 a.m. on Monday,” Martin said. “I had to ship out my whole room in four hours, that included packing, bringing it to the UPS, and it costs a pretty penny. I spent $700 to ship all my things back home.”
International studies major Mari Selig was forced to schedule a last-minute flight in order to return to campus and move out before the deadline. “It was pretty frustrating because it was really short notice. We had to stop what we were doing and immediately go back to San Francisco,” Selig said. “It was stressful because you only have a short amount of time in order to get your entire room into all these boxes and then get out of there.”
For Elli Carson, an undeclared sciences major, the last-minute announcement meant driving 12 hours round-trip from Newbury Park in Southern California to San Francisco. Due to the timing of the announcement, Carson was forced to do the move-out process without the help of her family.
“It was very annoying because I had to drive all day just to move myself out, and it was just a lot of work,” Carson said. “It took less time than expected because I had help from friends, but it still took a long time because everyone was moving out at the same time.”
Prior to the announcement of remote instruction, economics major Anna Weiner and three other USF students attended a conference in Washington, D.C. where they were exposed to the coronavirus. As a safety precaution, the University placed these students in quarantine in their dorm rooms.
“I got a call from the dean’s office and they told me to stay in my room, to not go out to eat, and only use the bathrooms in the showers. They said that they would bring me food,” Weiner said. “I remember calling them in the morning and they were like, ‘Oh, we don’t have any food for you. You’re gonna have to wait a little bit.’ Nobody ended up bringing me food. One of my friends on the floor had to go down to the front desk of Gillson to tell them that I was supposed to get food, and the person said they couldn’t do anything. I got the message from the University very clearly that they didn’t want me there.”
In addition to the quarantine, Weiner was asked to move her flights up in order to leave campus as soon as possible. The University then asked her to stay off-campus for a mandatory two-week period.
For English major Maddy Hoisington, the moveout process meant not only moving out her own belongings, but also her roommate’s. “It was really complicated because I was moving my stuff out, and I was also moving out my roommate’s stuff who lives in Texas,” Hoisington said. “I was also moving my friend’s stuff out because he was coming to stay down with my family for the rest of the semester. It took a long time, and I ended up getting sick because I was running around outside [and] it was drizzling.”
Hoisington’s experience of getting sick during the move out process highlights one major flaw in having hundreds of students moving out of their dorm rooms at the same time: the threat of the virus spreading was at the forefront of many people’s minds. Weiner said, “I don’t know if anyone pointed out how absolutely ridiculous it is to have all of your students come back to campus at one time when you’re worried about a viral infection spreading.”
For students like chemistry major Jaden Lucas-Retherford, returning to campus to retrieve his belongings was not an option. Due to his immunosuppression and his residence across the country, the trip to retrieve his belongings was not only inconvenient, but potentially dangerous.
“I was not allowed back into San Francisco due to the advice and demand of my cousin who is a doctor. Frankly, I think the order was unreasonable. I’m not sure all of my stuff got moved out. But I am thankful to my roommate and family friends for moving all of my stuff,” Lucas-Retherford said. “I also don’t like how poorly SHaRE handled all this disaster. I feel like they should probably have a plan in place in case this occurs again.”
Two days after the March 14 email, SHaRE announced that it would refund students’ room and board fees. Students will receive a prorated refund depending on the day they moved out, as well as their housing rate. This will provide some economic relief to families who have been financially impacted by the pandemic. Both of Selig’s parents are currently not working, and, in addition, she was forced to resign from her job in San Francisco as she prepared to move back home.
Carson’s family, which partially relies on her mother’s small business as a source of income, has felt the financial impact of the pandemic as they simultaneously try to pay tuition. “My mom has been really affected by this because she owns a small business and they’re not creating income,” Carson said. “She still has to pay her employees so her business is taking a hard hit. She’s had to lay off a couple employees.”
Carson suggested a partial return of tuition and fees as a result of moving to remote instruction.
Due to the permanent transition to online instruction, laboratory classes have been severely altered, and field trips and interactive experiences have been canceled. Many students, like environmental science major Ben Gonzalo, are upset by the loss of hands-on experiences that are supplemental to their learning.
“I’m really disappointed. I’m missing out this semester, I had a lot of field trips lined up for an ecology class that I was looking forward to,” Gonzalo said. “Going through the rest of the semester, I was pretty optimistic, and now I’m really unsure about what I’m going to be doing. It’s really disappointing as well, not being able to have social interaction, actually. [That’s] the hardest part for me personally.”
Overall, for many on-campus freshmen, moving out of the dorms signaled the end of their first year at USF.
“Obviously, part of going to college is actually being at college, and I feel very deprived of that,” Lucas-Retherford said. “I feel very bad for seniors who are missing out on their final semester. That would be pretty heartbreaking. But as a freshman, it’s been very frustrating for me to have half of my freshman year taken from me by a virus.”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misspelled a student’s name. This error has been corrected.