University anticipates residence hall changes for upcoming school year

Kent State plans to adjust rooming situations in residence halls when campus reopens in the fall in response to COVID-19 health concerns.

In a Zoom meeting on May 22 with members of local news outlets, Interim Associate Provost Manfred van Dulmen answered questions about the process the university will follow to reopen its campuses.

The plan to reopen Kent State started on May 7, van Dulmen said, with the establishment of committees “engaging over 100 faculty, staff and students in this process across all different areas of the university system.” Van Dulmen also said the university “intend[s] to reopen the residence halls at a decreased capacity.”

This includes adjustments to the room situations for some new and returning resident assistants [RAs]. The Department of Residence Services notified 12 RAs on May 12 of a plan to remove their roommates in the fall, which would leave those RAs in rooms by themselves. 

One RA, who asked to remain anonymous because resident assistants are not permitted to speak to the media, said this came after she already submitted her roommate request.

“I was upset because it could have been worse and very last-minute, right before school started,” she said. “But it’s very last minute in the sense that my roommate doesn’t have a chance to figure out where she’s going to be put. Everyone else knows who their roommate is going to be, and personally I’m definitely a people-person and can’t imagine living on my own.”

The RA said she is concerned she might receive a lower stipend for living alone, since she pays for college on her own and sought the extra money that comes with taking on a roommate. She does not know what her stipend will be in her new living situation. 

RAs received the notice in a group chat message sent by Residential Communities Assistant Director Sharon Jackson, which stated the department made the decision to “decrease density in the halls come fall.” The message also stated the RAs’ roommates would receive notice to choose a new room.

Reopening the university raises questions about how residents will live safely on campus. In an email sent to students and faculty by van Dulmen on May 22, the university laid out seven guidelines it will follow during “the return to campus activity.” 

The Centers for Disease Control [CDC] website provides information on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in congregate settings such as residence halls. These recommendations include decreasing traffic in elevators or stairwells, increasing ventilation in buildings to provide more air circulation and cleaning shared bathrooms at least twice per day using EPA-registered disinfectants. More information on CDC guidelines can be found here

At this time, Kent State has not announced any further details in regard to residence halls in the fall.

KentWired left messages, emailed and called nine staff members in the Department of Residence Services, including Executive Director Jill Jenkins and Jackson, in an attempt to ask questions about how dorm life will be handled in the fall, given the risk of coronavirus in a congregate or shared living setting. No calls or emails were returned. 

KentWired also sent questions to Eric Mansfield, Executive Director of University Media Relations, to ask about upcoming changes to residence life next semester. Mansfield said the university will “anticipate a detailed announcement early next week about the phases of reopening and the impact this will have on residential living for the end of the summer and for the fall semester.” 

Incoming RA and political science sophomore Erik Gomez explained his personal plans to practice social distancing while on the job.

“If we do go back on campus and the virus is still out there and we don’t have the vaccine yet, I would definitely take a lot of precautions myself,” Gomez said. “Obviously the staff is going to have some rules when we get there, but what I would do for myself is always have hand sanitizer [and] always wear a mask when talking to other people. If I have to deal with residents, I would make sure they stay at least six feet away and they wear a mask if I have to interact with them.”

According to the RA who is losing her roommate, RAs will return to campus in early August to receive training for the next school year. New residents will move in on August 23, and returning residents will move in on August 24, according to Kent State’s housing website.

Contact Troy Pierson at [email protected]