Students slated to live in on-campus housing are feeling concerned and confused about Penn's housing reassignment process for the fall semester.
Penn announced in an email on June 25 that students who opted to live in on-campus housing this fall would be required to live in private bedrooms, with a maximum of six students sharing one bathroom. It is “very likely” that students who have already received room assignments will need to relocate — including those in residences that comply with the new guidelines, according to Penn's coronavirus FAQs. All rooms will be charged the same rate.
Students living in suite-style apartments or shared bedrooms expressed concern that they would be separated from their intended roommates during the relocation process.
Rising College sophomore Megha Nair planned to live in a suite with one shared bedroom and two single rooms in Harnwell College House as part of the Eco-House program community and is worried she will be reassigned to a different hall than those in her program community.
“I’m worried about the social aspect. Last year, I lived in a program community and I think that really helped me find friends. I just felt a lot better knowing that I have people living right next to me who I could bond with,” Nair said.
Rising College sophomore Rebecca Hennessy, who planned to live in the Second Year Experience program community in Lauder College House in a six-person suite, believes the program community experience would not be the same if she was separated from her suitemates.
According to the University Housing FAQ page, "every effort" will be made to assign mutual roommates in the same suite, floor, or building, when possible.
Other students said they felt that the coronavirus makes their roommate choices particularly important, as the pandemic will likely force students to participate in online classes from their closely situated rooms.
Rising College sophomore Sammi Janower planned to live in a suite with one shared bedroom and two single rooms in Harrison College House, and worries about getting reassigned and having to share an apartment with students who may not take the necessary precautions to avoid the spread of the virus.
“If you get moved to a different suite with different people, how are you going to come up with the rules of your isolation pod?” Janower said.
Rising College sophomore Emily Kweit, who planned to live in a shared one-bedroom apartment in Harrison College House, echoed Janower’s concerns about sharing an apartment with someone who is not serious about social distancing measures.
“Even before we were told we had to move, [my roommate and I] were already talking about what our precautions are going to be when we live together,” Kweit said. “How many people are we going to be comfortable letting into our place? Where are we going to be comfortable going? We were kind of on a similar page.”
Others are worried about the type of room to which they would be relocated. Janower said she hopes to be relocated to a suite with a kitchen to avoid potential health risks of restaurants and dining halls.
“Being able to cook for yourself, especially right now, is really important. I don't want to go to restaurants. I don't want to go to dining halls. I barely want to go to grocery stores,” she said.
Some students said that if they are not satisfied with their new housing assignment, they would withdraw from on-campus housing and move off-campus or commute from home.
Rising College sophomore Sophia Bagg, who planned to live with three upperclassmen in Lauder College House, said her suitemates were told they could not live on campus because Residential Services is not guaranteeing housing for juniors and seniors this fall. Bagg now plans to commute to campus from home for the upcoming academic year if she is not satisfied with her new housing assignment.
Residential Services told Bagg in an email on July 2 that students who decide to cancel their on-campus housing arrangement for the fall semester would not be guaranteed on-campus housing in the spring. Students who no longer plan to live in on-campus housing have been asked to let Residential Services as soon as possible, and to cancel their assignment on Campus Express.
The lack of clarity about the reassignment process has made Janower question whether she should return to campus in the fall at all.
“As a student with health concerns, I can’t make a decision because I don't really know what I'm getting myself into. It's almost like I have to choose between my education and my safety,” Janower said.