UNC System: Refund Housing in 2020-2021 If You Kick Us Out

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DEMANDS (UPDATED AS OF 06/30/2020 AT 1:40 PM):

Students are focused on three things that we demand from UNCG/ the UNC System, here in order of importance:

  1. A comprehensive plan, regardless of the situation on housing refunds or lack thereof, to take care both financially and physically of students who risk homelessness and unsafe living conditions in case of school closure next year.
  2. An apology and explanation about the misinformation that has transpired these past couple of days, with the at-fault party taking accountability. We also wish for every university in the system to make a clear statement on the matter.
  3. Eventually, a system-wide guarantee of refunds in case of school closure next semester, to financially protect all students and put our wellbeing first (more information on this can be found below)

In short, UNCG announced recently (as part of the UNC System policy, that they claim affects all schools in the system) that students living on campus during 2020-2021 will not be refunded in the event that we are forced out of housing once again (like happened this March with COVID-19).

This petition asks the UNC System to reconsider and to amend the policy in order to provide eventual refunds, to UNCG and all other schools. In the event of termination of the housing contract because of COVID-19, we demand that students be refunded for the remainder of the semester as previously done.

ADDITION (06/23/2020 at 9:05 pm): WE DEMAND THAT THESE REFUNDS BE GUARANTEED ACROSS ALL 16 COLLEGES, WITH CONSISTENT LANGUAGE AND PUBLISHED WITH CLEAR COMMUNICATION TO ALL STUDENT BODIES. IN THE CASE OF NO REFUNDS, WE DEMAND THAT ANY FURTHER UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS ON THIS MATTER BE CONSISTENT ACROSS ALL INSTITUTIONS STILL, COMMUNICATED AT THE SAME TIME AND IN THE SAME MANNER.

This intro has been amended at 10:32 pm on 06/24/2020 to include the fact that the UNC System has still not responded to allegations of the existence of this policy as declared by UNCG.

In long, the UNC System, that houses 16 public colleges and university (plus one residential high school) is home to approximately 240,000 students across North Carolina. Today (06/22/2020), an email was sent out to students (at least within the UNCG campus of the System) announcing a system-wide addendum to the 2020-2021 housing contract (the legal document binding students who choose to live on campus).

The addendum (a special note on the contract) was not directly available in the email. To access it, students have to visit their housing portal. It was upon doing so that students discovered a concerning statement, under Section 18 of the addendum.

"Student acknowledges that, in the event of such temporary closures, restrictions, and/or adjustments to the housing services schedule, the University shall not have the obligation to issue a partial refund or credit for such interruptions or adjustments."

The failure to refund housing for the remainder of the contract in case of termination because of COVID-19 is irresponsible on the part of the UNC System. We demand that this policy be rectified to allow partial returns in such a case, as previously done.

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Why this policy affects students negatively:

We wish to note that these demands are not frivolous. We are requesting that this policy be changed to protect our peers' financial and physical wellbeing.

To explain the effects of this policy were COVID-19 to force termination of all housing contracts, we want to present you with a few different scenarios.

Assuming that the increasing cases of COVID-19 force the UNC System to announce the termination of all housing contracts and vacate the universities at the exact midpoint of the semester, there are three different scenarios we can present you with.

The student whose financial situation allows for the loss of a minimum of $1,407 (this sum is calculated by halving the cost of the cheapest housing available at UNCG, a traditional double priced at $2,813.00 per semester). This student and their family may be inconvenienced by the large sum lost but will continue living within good financial means. The student in particular will return to safe, welcoming housing with family.
The student whose financial situation is tight. The large loss might prove catastrophic for them or their family, assuming that that minimum of $1,407 could have been put to much better use than simply lost in housing that will be unoccupied and unenjoyable for part of the semester. The student may however return to safe, welcoming housing, despite the financial setback.
The student who is self-financing, and unable to have a safe, welcoming housing option to turn back to. We are writing this petition primarily knowing that many of our peers are currently living in abusive homes, or trying to stay afloat financially to not return to one. For these students, who may see campus housing a safe haven to pay for (usually with no familial help), will be left with no option if this policy goes into effect. The safe space that will have been created at UNCG will not exist, and there will not be a refund for those students to possibly settle somewhere else.
In either case, this is stealing. You are asking students to enter into a contract for housing that they may very well not use (seeing as the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reports growing cases of COVID-19 in the state every day). In either scenario, students and their families will be left without an important sum of money (which we recognize, may be lower than $1,407 but may also be much higher depending on each student's situation and time of eventual termination).

This is completely irresponsible on the part of the UNC System.

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What we demand:

Therefore we, as a collective by drafting and signing this petition, demand that this addendum be correct to ensure that students be refunded their housing in case of termination of the contract in 2020-2021 due to COVID-19. The UNC System is quite literally nothing without its 240,000 students, and its high residential population deserves better treatment from the system. Please allow for housing refunds, as you did in the case of March of this year.

We understand the financial impact that this may have on the system as a whole, but avoiding such impact at the expense of robbing students in this way is shameful. This addendum is irresponsible on the part of the UNC System, and it must be corrected.

Thank you.