Faced with the choice between a full housing refund or living in a residence hall while taking online classes, Julie Ryan chose the first, and left Morgan Hall in September — a choice she soon realized was a “mistake.”
“I’m kind of losing my mind at home,” said Ryan, a freshman media studies and production major now staying at her home in Warminster Township, Pennsylvania. “I just need to be around people again.”
As the semester nears a close, some students who moved home or stayed on campus after courses went online earlier this fall are considering whether or not to live on campus next semester. They share concerns about the safety of living in residence halls and their ability to focus academically during hybrid learning.
Ryan is one of more than 2,000 students who left her residence hall after Temple University announced it would suspend nearly all in-person instruction on Sept. 3 after reporting an outbreak of COVID-19 cases among students. Students in residence halls were given the option of moving out by Sept. 13 for a full refund on housing and meal charges
There are currently 1,223 students remaining living in university housing, wrote Olan Garrett, director of residential life at The Office of University Housing and Residential Life, in an email to The Temple News.
Temple will halt most in-person operations on Nov. 20 until the spring semester, though it is unclear which facilities, if any, will remain open, The Temple News reported. Residence halls will close on Nov. 21 at noon until Jan. 21.
Students can apply to remain on campus due to issues of housing insecurity, inadequate home internet access or because of someone at home who might be at elevated risk for COVID-19, according to a university announcement.
As of Nov. 17, there were 57 active cases of COVID-19 on Temple’s campus, The Temple News reported.
One hundred and sixty students have applied to stay in university housing for an extended time or the entire time during fall and winter break, Garrett wrote.
Next semester, residence halls will continue to permit only one student per room, Garrett wrote.
Applications for Spring 2021 housing opened on Nov. 16. Ryan is planning to return to Main Campus, she said. She misses the social aspects of living in a residence hall as she and her friends could spend time playing video games together in the residence halls while still staying safe.
“We were really nervous about [COVID-19], so we were super cautious about everything,” Ryan said. “I was able to make a pretty tight-knit friend group with the people on my floor and we’d all stay up playing Mario Kart every night.”
Her mental health has declined since she’s returned home because she’s been unable to socialize and enjoy the typical residence hall experience of meeting new people, Ryan added.
She’s hopeful that returning to campus will help her academically after her grades have suffered while working from home. Ryan also wants to return to using a meal plan to help improve her eating habits, she said.
“My grades have definitely dropped because my motivation has been super low, along with my mental and physical health,” Ryan added. “I struggle eating three meals a day, and when I was on the meal plan I did.”
Maria Mohajir, a freshman musical theater major, decided to stay at 1300 Residence Hall to ensure she’d be productive and because her home state, Arkansas, is so far away. She plans to move home for the fall and winter break but return for the spring semester, she said.
“I was still able to use the dance studio and the practice rooms so it was really helpful for me,” Mohajir said.
Mohajir said she’s learned a lot while on campus despite classes being online. She doesn’t have any major concerns about her safety and is looking forward to the university’s plans to return to hybrid learning in the spring semester, she added.
Temple announced plans for a mix of in-person and online classes for the Spring 2021 semester on Nov. 2, The Temple News reported.
“I’ve been really safe, so I’m very comfortable,” Mohajir said. “I’m hoping hybrid learning stays hybrid learning the whole time and we don’t go back online because I had some classes in-person this year and I enjoyed going, even with masks and everything socially distanced.”
Student Health Services is preparing to administer 26,000 tests per week during the spring semester, The Temple News reported. Students who live in residence halls or take in-person classes will be tested twice per week, and those who live off campus will be eligible for one test per week.
Despite enhanced precautions, Morgan Lichtel, a resident at 1300 Residence Hall, still has concerns about whether staying in a residence hall will continue to be safe in the spring semester because of the rise in COVID-19 cases.
On Nov. 16, Philadelphia announced new restrictions that banned indoor dining and gatherings due to the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases, The Temple News reported. The city averaged 721 new cases of COVID-19 a day last week.
“I just don’t know if it’ll be safe,” said Lichtel, a freshman nursing major. “I’m not against their plans, but I’m just wondering how long it’ll last before they go online again. It would be very annoying.”
Lichtel stayed on campus because her housing fees were covered by financial aid and she trusted that she could be safe while still being able to make new friends, she said.
“All my friends live in the same hallway as I do and I wasn’t going to any parties, so I felt I could be pretty safe here,” Lichtel said.
She plans to return in the spring,but is hopeful that a vaccine and expanded COVID-19 testing on campus will help restore normalcy so she can take in-person classes.
“This sounds outrageous, but I’m hopeful there’ll be some sort of vaccine soon,” she said. “But for now, I hope that in-person classes can stay and that [COVID-19] tests will be more available for that to happen.”