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New South dorms on Ohio University's campus in Athens, Ohio.

Underclassmen to receive housing credit despite living off campus

While Ohio University struggles with the loss of revenue from campus housing this semester, underclassmen students have experienced unchanged housing rules and the inability to seek off-housing housing.

Due to COVID-19, only a limited number of students have been able to live on campus. This has resulted in a lower amount of revenue for OU. The FY21 Budget Book projected the revenue of room and board significantly higher than its current results. 

“Our current forecast for Room and Board revenue ($41.0M) is lower than our Fiscal Year 2021 (July 2020-June 2021) Room and Board Budget ($68.7M), as our reopening plan for the fall is housing fewer students, for a shorter period of time,” Chad Mitchell, chief of staff for finance and administration, said in an email. 

Students are required to live on-campus for two years, but OU will be crediting students for their residence this semester regardless because of the pandemic. 

Some students use doctor’s notes as exemptions from housing requirements, allowing them to live in off-campus housing before the required two years are up. The specific numbers of housing exemptions through doctor’s notes cannot be revealed, but the number of requests has not gone up, Pete Trentacoste, executive director of Housing and Residence Life, said.

Students who were not invited to live on campus for Phase 2 cannot find off-campus housing, as the intent of the phased return is to lower density on campus during a public health pandemic, Trentacoste said.

“Anyone who is required by University policy to live on campus and is found to have secured a lease in the Athens area during fall 2020 will be referred to the Office of Community Standards and Student Responsibility,” Trentacoste said in an email.

Students have shown strong opposition to housing requirements in place before and during the pandemic.

Abigail Scherer, a sophomore studying political science, is currently living at home in Kent. She has plans to lease an apartment for the 2021-2022 year so she’s back on campus.

“I think that requiring people to adhere to the housing contract is ridiculous … as a sophomore who most likely will not be able to live on campus at all this year I should have been able to find off-campus housing to live in,” Scherer said in an email.

Hannah Payne, a sophomore studying mechanical engineering, has similar sentiments to Scherer. She also has plans to lease an apartment for the next school year. Payne, on the other hand, currently lives on campus in Bryan Hall. 

“I think it is unfair to force students to live on campus for two years,” Payne said in an email. “Some students can't afford it.”

While sophomores look forward to off-campus housing next year, freshmen will not have that option for another year. Those on campus have been faced with isolation and sickness, as COVID-19 outbreaks in dorms have moved several halls into quarantine and isolation. 

Lucas Strunc, a freshman studying media arts production, is currently living alone in Washington Hall. 

“The idea of being forced to live in a dorm is ridiculous to me,” Strunc said in an email. “It's a money grab on their part, and I don't feel particularly sentimental about the ‘college experience.’”

Students stand in consensus that the housing requirements would be wrong to enforce. As OU approaches Spring Semester, concerns about housing remain an issue.

“The chances of all students being on campus in the spring is unlikely so people who wanted to should have been allowed to find other housing,” said Scherer in an email.


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