University of Oklahoma officials urge students to move out of residence halls in light of COVID-19


University of Oklahoma

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NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – University of Oklahoma personnel are urging students who live on campus to move off campus if possible to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“We acknowledge this decision may create disappointment or uncertainty for some members of our community. Our hope is that this communication provides you with the information you need to transition back to your home and permit you to successfully complete your coursework for the remainder of the semester,” Dr. ShaRhonda Maclin, Assistant Dean of Students & Executive Director of Housing and Residence Life, said in a letter to students posted on the university’s Housing & Food Services web page.

There are currently 1,373 students residing in campus residence halls and towers. Prior to spring break – March 14-22 – there were 4,213 students in residence halls and towers, according to Kesha Keith, OU Director of Media Relations.

Reducing on-campus student residents was not an easy decision, but student health and safety is paramount, Maclin said.

“Normal operations of our residence halls with our full population is challenging to maintain effectively given the state of our current public health crisis,” Maclin said.

However, students residing in Kraettli and Traditions – both OU-owned apartment buildings – are not impacted by the change and can remain in their on-campus residence.

Residence hall students are asked to move out because residence halls, as opposed to apartment buildings, are more community-centric, which currently presents risks, Keith said.

“Kraettli and Traditions are apartment style living. These living spaces allow residences to have their own kitchen, which in turns allows them to be more self-sufficient. Whereas other residential hall and tower locations model community style living, something we are trying to avoid with social distancing. Also, Kraettli and Traditions apartments are permanent residence for many, with year-round living,” Keith said.

Maclin encourages students living in residence halls to officially check out from their housing assignment by Tuesday, March 31 and take the following actions:

  • Complete the Express Checkout Form located in your housing portal.
  • Select a day and time for your checkout.
  • Please move and take all of your belongings with you as you will not have access to your room after you have checked out.
  • Once you have vacated your assigned space, drop off your key in the key box located outside the Housing Office in Walker Tower. Residents in Dunham and Headington Colleges will forgo this step.
  • Sooner Card access will be shut off once your checkout is complete.

However, there are exceptions. Student residents who have special circumstances can continue living on campus. Those students include:

  • International students who are unable to secure return travel home;
  • Persons for whom their on-campus residence is their only home (including graduate students, postdocs, faculty, and staff for whom their on-campus residence is their permanent address); or
  • Students for whom traveling home would present a severe health or safety risk.

Students who have extenuating circumstances that prevent them from moving can complete and submit a Special Circumstances Form.

“We will review this request daily and work with students on an individual basis,” Maclin said.

Students who remain on campus will be asked to follow “special precautions to maximize social distancing and assist in the university effort to ensure the health of the OU and Norman communities,” Maclin said.

The special precautions include the following:

  • Outside guests are strongly discouraged in on-campus housing.
  • Dining Services will have limited hours and options.
  • It is possible given the rapid changing circumstances that we may have to relocate you.
  • Guidance from public health authorities may require additional actions on the part of students who remains in on-campus housing.

Students who live on campus but are currently off campus are asked to remain off campus at this time. Those students will receive further information from OU Housing within the next week to schedule moving out.

Structured move outs will be from Monday, April 6 to Saturday, April 18. The university requires all move out appointments to be scheduled before April 18. Student belongings will remain in their rooms until students retrieve them on scheduled dates and times.

“Please note that the scheduling is intended to adhere to CDC recommendations in regard to social distancing and space occupancy. Therefore, please limit the number of guests that accompany you to move your items. Adhering to your self-selected checkout time is imperative. Building access will be limited, and you may not have access if you come back to campus prior to your scheduled day and time,” Maclin said.

Students who officially move out of their on-campus assignment will receive a prorated refund for housing and meals for the April 1-May 9 time period.

“Student refunds will be processed after the check-out process is complete with OU Housing. Please allow up to 4 weeks for processing. Students who remain in on-campus housing will not be eligible for a refund. Some students receiving University-funded housing and food aid may not be eligible for a refund,” Maclin said.

University officials have taken numerous actions as concern over coronavirus has grown and the virus itself became a presence on the OU campus.

Officials announced on March 12 that following spring break, classes would be administered entirely online from March 23 to April 3.

The first case of COVID-19 was confirmed on the OU campus on March 15.

“That’s when we closed campus for a week,” Keith said.

University officials closed the campus from Monday, March 16 to Friday, March 20.

University officials announced on March 18 that classes will be entirely online for the rest of the semester.

OU officials announced on Friday, March 20 that a second university community member had tested positive for COVID-19.

Click here for a full timeline of coronavirus-related developments on the OU campus.

Click here for Maclin’s full letter to students.

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