House rules: Break COVID-19 guidelines, face possible eviction from VCU dorms

Students in Gladding Residence Center and other traditional-style dorms were assigned to specific bathroom stalls and cannot invite outside guests. Photo by Jon Mirador

Anya Sczerzenie, Staff Writer

For residential students, not following VCU’s COVID-19 policies could lead to being evicted from on-campus housing and returning home. 

VCU Residential Life and Housing posted a series of tweets reminding students to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines or risk facing eviction. Not only would the student’s contract be canceled, but they would be stuck with the bill — an average of $9,000, according to VCU Housing. 

COVID guidelines for residential students include wearing a face covering in public areas, maintaining physical distancing and not having unapproved guests in rooms.

According to VCU Housing, the standard guest policies have been suspended for the entire 2020-21 academic year. Residential students are not allowed to invite guests who live outside their residence hall into their rooms and can only have one “neighbor” — a person who lives in the same residence hall — in their room at a time.

The VCU Housing contract, which is signed by all residential students, states that the university has the right to terminate or suspend housing for any reason, including if the resident’s presence “poses a risk to the health or safety of persons or to university property.” The university said the contract cancellation policy is the same for all residence halls at VCU.

Several people called VCU Housing “thieves” on Twitter and said “You opened school, it’s your fault!” 

Some students say they have nowhere else to go.

Caden Haney, a senior in VCU’s School of Social Work and former residential assistant, said he was evicted from university housing after giving one of his residents a ride to Gladding Residence Center III, where the resident was to be put in COVID-19 isolation housing. 

Haney said VCU Residential Life and Housing did not offer his friend transportation to GRC III. VCU Housing did not immediately respond to questions regarding transportation options for students moving into isolation. 

“I did not want to risk the public health of the Richmond community members and students on campus with them walking,” Haney said.

Haney says he is housing-insecure and has nowhere to live. He was dismissed from his RA position when his housing contract was canceled. 

Some students say evicting residents for breaking these rules is too harsh of a punishment, and will just cause additional harm.  

Senior biology and philosophy major Jing Lacson said he understands VCU’s intent with the housing guidelines and safety initiatives, but he worries about the repercussions for the students.

“I think more harm than good will come from evicting people, and from the financial burdens in addition to being displaced.” — Jing Lacson, senior biology and philosophy major.

“To some extent it’s not fair to the students,” said Jacob Lin, a junior criminal justice and homeland security major. “I’m sure most people who don’t follow the guidelines don’t do it intentionally. I don’t think it’s fair for the students to pay for the whole year without living there.”

VCU’s more traditional-style halls, like the new Gladding Residence Center, were designed with a focus on community spaces and lounge areas. The recent health crisis has made some of these spaces practically unusable, with students facing penalties if they don’t follow restrictions while using them.

Freshman pre-nursing student Aleena Milburn, who lives in GRC, was not aware that her housing contract could be canceled if she violated the guidelines. 

Milburn said she thinks the price of housing and tuition should be decreased if VCU is evicting residents based on adherence to safety guidelines.

“I don’t think it’s fair, but I will follow the guidelines so I don’t have to be evicted,” Milburn said.

Milburn said other students around her have been following the guidelines and that she feels safe living in the residence hall. 

Students in traditional-style rooms such as those in Johnson, Rhoads, and parts of GRC, where bathroom facilities are shared, were assigned to a specific bathroom stall and shower stall for the year. Students were also asked to wipe down surfaces in bathrooms and common areas before and after use. 

There are isolation rooms for students who contract the virus in GRC III and the Honors College building. Students will have to stay in these rooms for at least 10 days and will be provided with meals, a set of linens and a private bathroom. 

According to the VCU COVID-19 dashboard, there are 33 COVID-19 positive students in isolation and 93 students in quarantine, which is for individuals who may have been exposed to the virus.

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