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Only faculty members and house deans will reside in the Quad, Hill, and Kings Court English College House this fall.

Credit: Kylie Cooper

On the same day resident advisors and graduate associates moved into campus housing last week, College Houses & Academic Services informed those who were meant to be living in the Quad, Hill College House, and Kings Court English College House that they would have to relocate "shortly." The last minute change fueled RAGAs' continued frustration with CHAS's communication about fall housing. 

Deputy Provost Beth Winkelstein wrote to RAGAs on Aug. 19 that they, as well as students accepted to live on campus, will only occupy Harnwell College House, Rodin College House, Harrison College House, Mayer Hall, or Du Bois College House for the fall semester. RAGAs were instructed to stay in their previously assigned rooms without fully unpacking their belongings for the two-week self-isolation period before relocating to their new dorm.

Some RAGAs expressed frustration with the sudden change to their housing location on the day of their move in, viewing the episode as a lack of consideration for them. As the relocation is expected to coincide with the beginning of fall undergraduate classes on Sept. 1, RAGAs, many whom are undergraduate students, are concerned about juggling synchronous classes while moving into their new residence. CHAS did not specify the date or time of RAGAs' relocations.

Second-time Riepe RA and College senior Zoe Osborne, who described receiving the email on the morning of her move-in as "distressing," said she wished that RAGAs could move straight into their new housing assignments and she will now have to decide what to keep packed and unpack temporarily until she moves yet again.

"CHAS could have given us this information a week ago or a few days ago, because it was sort of on all of our minds that we thought that we would eventually be moved [following Penn's decision to close campus housing for most students] but to see it formalized, I wish we had gotten that information sooner.”

RAGAs' new housing assignments will be assigned by the end of next week, according to an Aug. 21 email from CHAS Director of First-Year Houses and Paraprofessional Staff Training Licinia Barrueco Kaliher.

A first-time Ware RA and College junior said relocating to another dorm during her first week of classes will make it much more difficult to focus on her studies. She added that not being able to attend synchronous classes during that first week will hinder her ability to decide if she should drop a certain course she is on the fence about taking.

“There are thousands of things that are going to be going on [when we relocate]," the College junior said. "Synchronous Zoom meetings [for classes] are just like normal meetings in that you have to be there on time and that doesn’t work when you’re changing residences. It’s so frustrating.” 

CHAS will coordinate with Residential Services and movers to try to accommodate RAGAs' academic schedules, Kaliher wrote.

The announcement follows widespread confusion from RAGAs just days before their move-in date about their job responsibilities and the terms of their contracts if COVID-19 conditions worsen.

"It’s been stressful having the uncertainty of not knowing where residents are, not knowing how programming is going to go, not knowing where I am going to be moved, if I’m only staying there for the fall semester, or if it’s going to be fall and spring," a first-time Quad RA and College junior said.

Over 135 RAGAs signed a letter to Winkelstein and CHAS administrators on July 31 with demands for more detailed job descriptions and increased compensation due to the pandemic. In response to the email, Winkelstein scheduled an information session over Zoom attended by CHAS administrators, about 120 RAGAs, and several College House deans. Some RAGAs described the meeting as “deeply disappointing” and “pretty awful” after Winkelstein did not take any questions and purposefully muted their mics when they tried to speak.

CHAS will send new virtual housing lists to RAGAs by the end of the week, Kaliher wrote, which will include the names of their previously assigned residents who are now living off campus and recently accepted on-campus residents.

With classes beginning in just one week, Osborne said she would like to have a finalized list of her residents as soon as possible so that she can reach out to the first years via email and introduce herself to make them feel welcome to the Penn community.

Second-time Quad GA and third-year Graduate School of Education Ph.D student Andrew Wu said despite the chaotic housing situation, he understands that CHAS is not able to provide all the information in a  timely manner, as accommodating housing exceptions for students during the pandemic is an unprecedented situation.

“I would prefer to have the lists so that we can reach out to students, but since [residents’s housing assignments] are in flux, the University finalizing its plans is understandable," he said.

CHAS will keep RAGAs originally assigned to the same college house together despite relocation, Kaliher wrote.

While RAGAs will be able to live on campus this fall, off-campus housing will not be subsidized if worsened COVID-19 conditions prompt Penn to de-occupy campus further and force RAGAs off campus, according to an Aug. 17 update to the RAGA fall 2020 FAQ.