Students expecting to hear their new fall housing assignments were surprised and confused to receive an email Wednesday afternoon from the insurance company National Student Services Inc., instead of an official notice from the University.
Although the email appeared to contain students' reassigned housing placement for the fall semester, Associate Vice President of Risk Management and Insurance Ben Evans wrote in an emailed statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian that the room location listed in the NSSI policy document is not, in fact, the recipient’s new housing assignment.
The intended recipients of the email were students who opted to pack, store, or ship their belongings this summer, according to Evans, who wrote that "there may have been some conservatism built into the roster" in attempting to do so. The email also provided instructions for how to file a claim for their insured items and stated insurance amounts and a premium fee.
Many students who received the NSSI email said they felt blindsided and confused over whether it contained their new housing assignment for the fall or not.
“The room location was supposed to be [the recipient’s] location and room for the 19-20 Spring semester. If errors were made, they will be corrected in the next communication students receive,” Evans wrote about the NSSI document.
According to the University Housing FAQ page, it is “very likely” that students who have already received room assignments will need to relocate to a different assignment on campus in order to adhere to de-densifying precautions against COVID-19. Students were told that assignments would be released in mid-July, and have since expressed frustration with the reassignment process.
Rising College sophomore Caylen David, who lived in Ware College House during the spring 2020 semester, said that his room location on the NSSI document was Sansom Place East – a graduate student dorm that rising juniors and seniors who applied for on-campus housing may be relocated to this fall.
Rising College sophomore Hiba Hamid, who lived in Kings Court English College House during the spring 2020 semester as a first-year, said that her room location on the document was Harnwell College House, an on-campus dorm that does not house first-year students. Hamid's previous assignment, however, for the fall 2020 semester was in Harnwell College House.
Like David and Hamid, rising College sophomore Dotun Bello also did not pack, store, or ship his items, but was still among the many students who received the email from NSSI.
Students said that the confusion around the email, which was sent from a “no-reply” address, reflects the lack of transparency between Residential Services and students.
Hamid, who is waiting to hear if she can still live in Harnwell College House as she originally intended to for the fall, said she wished Residential Services gave students notice before the email was sent. Rising College sophomore Ana Gomez said that she was displeased that Penn gave her contact information to a third party company without her knowledge.
“At first, I didn't even open [the email], because I didn't know what it was. I thought it was an accident or spam or something,” Gomez said. “I've never heard of that company before. I thought it might have been something about my student loans. I really had no idea what it was, and I still kind of don't.”
If students choose not to live on campus for the fall semester, they must cancel their assignment before the end of July or they may face fees later in the summer, according to the University's Housing FAQs page. According to Campus Express, first-year students will receive their housing assignments on July 17, and incoming transfer students and returning students will receive theirs by the end of the week of July 20.
This gives returning students and incoming transfers only a one-week window after learning their new housing assignment to decide their fall semester plans without facing additional charges.
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