Campus is a ‘ghost town’ following departure of most on-campus students

International students without other arrangements and students who would otherwise be homeless can remain in on-campus housing after completing an emergency petition. Photo by Georgia Geen

Naomi Ghahrai, Contributing Writer

It’s 10:50 a.m. on what would have been the first day back from spring break. Usually, students are rushing to their next class, people are sitting on the benches near the Commons with bicycles passing by. Now, everything is silent. A few people walk by. The livelihood of campus has been stripped away suddenly by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Most on-campus students have packed their bags and moved back in with their family or guardians.  VCU Housing is only allowing international students or those who would otherwise be homeless to stay on campus. 

Mikayla Cunney, a sophomore majoring in biology, decided to stay on campus because her family lives in Thailand. 

“I haven’t been walking around that much because I’ve been staying inside, but when I am outside, campus is pretty much like a ghost town compared to how it usually is,” Cunney said in an Instagram message. 

Britny Forbes, a sophomore majoring in health, physical education and exercise science, or HPEX, said she would have to adjust to losing VCU’s sense of community. 

“Campus feels very lonely right now, even more lonely being in a dorm because there are not nearly as many people coming in and out of the building.” Forbes said in an Instagram message. “I miss being outdoors and active.”

As of publication, Forbes is no longer on campus because of VCU’s switch to online classes for the rest of the semester.

Resources for on-campus students have reduced, but there are dining options available with limited hours. James Branch Cabell and Tompkins McCaw libraries will close until further notice on Saturday.

Seita Takanashi, a sophomore majoring in HPEX, is staying in Richmond because he is paying rent for an off-campus apartment. 

“I wish the gym was still open, but unfortunately not, so I settle with indoor body weight workouts,” Takanashi said. 

On-campus students can retrieve their belongings during business hours until Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

VCU Housing denied Analynne Escobar’s application to stay on campus twice, she wrote, saying her reasons were “insufficient.” 

“I wish we had more support. … It’s unfair especially students who are low income or first-gen with family members who can’t provide for them, and they rely on on-campus resources to make their day go by.” Escobar said in an Instagram message. “It’s like we’re being kicked to the curb, and it’s up to us to find where to live.”

Escobar said VCU Housing did not help her in finding another place to live. Housing shouldn’t assume every student has family members to stay with, she said, or a safe home to go back to.

Cody Murgas, a chemistry PhD candidate, said graduate students are not given the same level of guidance compared to undergraduates. Murgas has had to complete research recently, but labs will shut down next week. 

“The graduate students doing research is a complex issue,” Murgas said in a text message. “We need to be in the lab to perform experiments, but we also need to be given the same guidance and protection the undergrads have been provided.”

Murgas said because research is expensive, “time down is money lost.”

More information about VCU’s response to COVID-19 can be found at covid-19.vcu.edu.

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