Honors College returns to residence hall one year after abrupt transformation

Workers use a forklift to remove hospital beds from the Honors College. Photo by Chris Muth

Emma Carlson, Contributing Writer

More than one year after workers removed student belongings from the Honors College to prepare the building for potential incoming COVID-19 patients, the building is returning to its regular use as a residence hall for incoming freshmen.

Hospital beds placed in the dormitory were removed on April 7. VCU Residential Life and Housing confirmed the Honors College will return to a residence hall for the fall semester.

The VCU Health System requested the Honors College as an additional space for low-acuity COVID-19 patients in case of unexpected surges within the VCU and Richmond communities, VCU Division of Student Affairs spokesperson Matt Lovisa said. 

Sophomore biology major Sri Chirumamilla was living in the Honors College when VCU shut down after spring break due to COVID-19 concerns. She said she was frustrated at how the university did not inform students of the building’s upcoming emergency use.

“If we were told to move all of our stuff out, then I definitely would have,” Chirumamilla said. “I wouldn’t have had a problem with that. The fact is that we weren’t informed this was happening.” 

Chirumamilla said she was dissatisfied with how VCU inventoried students’ items. She has friends who lost personal items, such as gifts and toiletries, and she was led to a corner in a warehouse to retrieve whichever fridge she thought was hers, she said.

Some students living in the Honors College were first informed of the removal of their items through a Facebook video posted by a VCU employee, showing footage of students’ items being removed and inventoried, according to a previous article from The Commonwealth Times. VCU did not release an official statement until the next day on March 26. 

“It is disrespectful to the undergraduate people that are paying tuition,” said sophomore psychology major Rohan Arora.

Sophomore psychology major Rohan Arora was also living in the Honors College during this time.

“We saw a video that went viral showing that our belongings were being taken and then boxed and then labeled, but there was not any communication to the people who lived there,” Arora said.

Lovisa said the Honors College was used briefly last August to house two VCU students for less than 48 hours, both testing negative for COVID-19.

Gladding Residence Center III, typically a freshman residence hall with suite style dorms, is the sole isolation unit on campus for students who test positive or display symptoms of COVID-19. The hall will be the only isolation and quarantine space on campus as it allows for proper social distancing in a safe environment, Lovisa said. 

Arora also has friends who lost personal belongings in the temporary Honors College conversion.

“It is disrespectful to the undergraduate people that are paying tuition,” Arora said. “It is disappointing.”

Neither Arora nor Chirumamilla blamed VCU for ultimately not needing to use the Honors College as additional isolation space but would have liked more communication from the school before their belongings were removed.

“A brief email wouldn’t have been hard,” Arora said.

Lovisa stated in an email that it is the university’s responsibility to relay this information to students.

Our communication wasn’t as timely as it needed to be,” Lovisa stated. “It is always our intention to provide the most accurate information and to create a streamlined process for our students, parents and families. We are deeply sorry.” 

Arora considers VCU’s actions disrespectful toward students living on campus who pay similar if not greater costs to those living off campus in order to participate in campus life.

“VCU as a whole made the Honors College for that community feel, yet they don’t treat their students like members of the community, and they aren’t effective communicators,” Arora said.

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