Reimburse University of Michigan Student Housing Relocation Expenses - COVID-19

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To ensure the success, well-being, and stability of all students through the remainder of this crisis, we demand that the University of Michigan:

  • Pro-rate U-M Housing room and board expenses for students impacted by this global emergency.
  • Reimburse all U-M students who leave campus for the costs of unplanned travel and moving expenses.

On March 11, 2020, University President Mark Schlissel announced via email to the University of Michigan community that classes would be moving online for the remainder of the semester in response to the COVID-19 virus. This was expanded upon on March 13, when Schlissel announced that all exams would also take place in alternate formats. Throughout these adjustments, the University Administration has communicated repeatedly that University Housing and Dining would remain open for those who need it:

“For students who choose to remain on campus, Michigan Dining and U-M Housing will remain operational. We are working to make changes to minimize risk for students in our dining halls.”

While the University has gone through a series of phases adjusting the resources and services available in University Housing and Dining, the situation has escalated to the point of actively forcing all students to leave; exceptions are being offered only for students without the resources to return home and whose “petition to remain in housing” is approved. There has been no guarantee made as to what situations will allow a student to stay on campus at this point. On March 17, students were given less than 24 hours to make this decision and arrange alternate housing, move-out, and travel, or were told they would lose M-card access to their dorms. This is all in the midst of the second day of transitioning to online class formats in addition to the added stress and uncertainty of an unprecedented global pandemic.

“Dear Residents,

We are following up on the email sent last night from the Interim Vice President of Student Life. New developments in the COVID-19 pandemic make it clear that now is the time to return home...Dining halls will now only serve boxed to-go meals, and students on-campus should expect dining and residence halls to consolidate.

Students who wish to remain in University Housing will need to first have their request approved…This information is needed by 8am on Wednesday, March 18th. If you do not respond we will assume you have left campus and will discontinue building access.”

Regardless of whether a student voluntarily left after the initial announcement, or is now being forced to create a plan to leave at the last minute, the University’s response to this global pandemic has forced an undue financial burden on students. Those living in University Housing had essentially pre-paid their budgeted living expenses until May 4, 2020. Now those students are largely left without the accommodations previously paid for.

By requiring a petition to stay in housing previously promised, the University has also put undue stress on students. For many of the students still on campus, the decision to stay has not been easy. Home life with family can be complicated, and these circumstances are not always easy to document or provide as evidence. No one should be expected to produce such information to stay in housing that was previously promised, especially so quickly and in the midst of other stressful academic transitions.

For students still in Ann Arbor who live off-campus, many of the same barriers are still in place: land-lords require contracts that have locked students into living arrangements sometimes too expensive to justify leaving, especially if their families don’t have the ability to provide reasonable accommodations at home. For those students living off-campus who have already left or will be doing so this week, they have still been faced with the cost of last-minute travel and moving/shipping. The University has offered no financial support to students, but their actions demonstrate an assumption of class privilege for the entirety of the student body that is simply not present. Many students at this university do not have the means to leave on a moment's notice.

Students returning home have not only been faced with the expense of last-minute travel arrangements, but also the costs of food and possibly rent, depending on what alternate accommodations are available to them. It is absolutely unacceptable for the University to retain the funds gained from student’s room and board fees while proactively rescinding the services promised. It is absurd for the University to leave students to fend for themselves and fund their own emergency travel and living costs while the World Health Organization declares our current situation a Global Pandemic. In the panic of our current struggles, the University has demonstrated a lack of commitment to its claimed values of equity and inclusion.

Students have already been tasked with completing their academic obligations remotely during a time of crisis; it is only reasonable that the University should do its part in relieving unnecessary financial stress during these times. Other institutions have begun taking such steps to support student well-being: Brown and Yale have promised to credit students for unused room and board expenses, and Yale assisted students on financial aid with the cost of traveling home. These funds are necessary to ensure students’ access to reliable, healthy food sources, safe housing conditions, travel to that home, and the technology and internet access necessary to complete the remainder of the term remotely. Please help provide students with the resources to navigate these difficult situations rather than leaving those of us that remain to fend for ourselves.

Sincerely,

Concerned University of Michigan Students