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

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

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Devin Street
Devin Street signed this petition

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)

End of 06/30/2020 demands update.

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UPDATE ON PROGRESS OF THOSE DEMANDS, as of 07/21/2020 at 7:22pm

UNCG and the UNC System have not directly responded to these demands. Some moves have been made to appease and reassure students, but no complete statements nor refunds have been announced.

1. As it pertains to the first demand, UNCG has repeatedly said, including in the 07/21/2020 returning student townhall, that the University will take care of students so that none are left without a place to live. Per an email from UNCG University Messages on 07/07/2020; "we remain fully committed to our priority of helping students who might not otherwise have stable environments to return to (for example, in the Spring when we had to close most residence halls, we were able to offer an exception for students with the greatest need to remain on campus and to help other students without financial means to return home safely)." This however is still not a comprehensive plan as no detailed measures have been outlined, and nothing has to our knowledge been published at the System level, for all Universities to abide by.

2. As it pertains to the second demand, UNCG has yet to apologize to its student body. The UNCG Fall 2020 FAQ (https://update.uncg.edu/faq/) has been modified on 07/20/2020 to include the statement; "We know there have been many questions about dining and housing refunds if students are compelled to leave campus or facilities close due to COVID-19 issues this year.  We regret any concern or confusion this has caused." This however is still not an apology, and student trust continues to be damaged because of the University and System's lack of accountability for a severe miscommunication about a sensitive topic for many students who struggle financially.

3. As it pertains to the third issue, refunds are still not guaranteed. Per the UNCG Fall 2020 FAQ (https://update.uncg.edu/faq/) on 07/20/2020, the System policy is as follows; "The UNC System issued guidance to all its institutions about the possibility that housing and dining refunds would not be available, particularly without state or federal financial relief, if COVID-19 further impacts students and forces them to leave campuses and return to online learning...If the UNC System institutions are able to offer financial relief to students—in the form of refunds or other measures—we would certainly like to do so." This however is still not guaranteeing refunds and financial help, and we continue to push for the System to allow budget/request aid to do so.

Our fight is ongoing, and we wish for accountability and our three demands to be accurately and comprehensively completed.

End of 07/21/2020 update.

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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.

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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.

End of 06/23/2020 addition.

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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.