There were only a couple of months left in school before GVSU closed down both of their campuses in Grand Rapids and Allendale on March 18th. For some, this might have been cause for celebration, as their classes moved to an online format and some of their classwork was reduced. For them, it almost felt like they were back in fifth grade and their elementary school closed for a snow day.
But this was no snow day.
For those staying on one of GVSU’s campuses, this wasn’t just someplace where they took classes, it was their home.
It was their home… Rooms that were once filled with posters, desks, laptops, and cheap mattresses are now empty, waiting to be deep-cleaned by the GVSU custodial staff.
On March 12th, President Philomena Mantella decided to close down all “residential building access from March 16th to March 29th.” In the same email, all students were given the order to move out of their complexes by Sunday, March 15. But that soon changed, as GVSU decided that the remainder of the semester would be conducted through an online format, officially closing the campus less than a week after the announcement came of a brief suspension.
Nine different housing complexes at GVSU were affected by Governor Whitmer’s executive order, forcing over 6,000 students to either return to their hometown or find another form of housing.
Among the buildings closed, was the Mark A. Murray Building, located on the south side of GVSU’s Allendale Campus. Residents were given strict instructions on how to conduct their clean-outs through a series of emails from GVSU administration, reiterating their goal of “working continuously and responsibly for the safety of our community and with the best interest of our students, employees, and visitors as [their] resolute focus.”
Each student was to sign up for an allotted “move-out slot” that ensured less than four people would be present during the same two hour period and that no residents from the same room would come in contact with one another. Students selected their dates through an online portal and conducted their move-outs for a week. It wasn’t quite the storybook ending the students envisioned for the end of their school year, and for some, they weren’t even able to say goodbye to their roommates in person.
While the rest of the campus shut down following the student’s mass exodus, the custodial crews continued working as “essential staff” to help keep the campus clean and safe.
“I want all our employees to have confidence in the cleanliness of our campuses. We have increased our already high standards in our buildings. While washing your hands remains the most effective means to combat the spread of any virus, the custodial staff and contractors have increased their focus on cleaning and disinfecting our spaces,” Mantella said in an email sent out to all GVSU personnel and students.
“They are paying special attention to door handles, restroom fixtures, desks, tables, and all high-touch surfaces,” Mantella continued. “Germicidal and virucidal disinfectants are being utilized in daily routines in all common locations.”
The custodial staff has continued working throughout the shutdown in an attempt to keep the campus safe for future residents, but other workers in the administration building have also continued working, trying to help refund students for the two months of rent they no longer needed.
Starting March 26th, refunds were issued to student accounts as forms “credit”, which the students could use to pay for their rent next year. Most students were awarded somewhere between $1,200-$1,500, covering over two months’ worth of rent, parking passes, and meal plans.
However, students who will be graduating in April, are unable to use the credits and the money they paid for a year of rent, will be a sunken cost. For an unprecedented situation, GVSU administration has done an admirable job of trying to help everyone, but this might be the one area they simply cannot help due to the mass amounts of money they would have to refund. Perhaps, refunding all of the Senior students was simply not feasible.
There currently is not a timetable on when the housing units will re-open to the students, but with all schools moving to virtual learning for the remainder of the year, residents can only hope things will return to normal by next fall and that they will be able to move back into their apartments… This time, for the entire school year.