Residence Occupancy declines 28% from fall 2019

The Fall 2021 occupancy in residence halls was 1,305, 66.2%, compared to the pre-pandemic Fall 2019 occupancy, which was 1,803, 91.4%, according to Associate Dean of Students Glenn Cochran. 

He said the number of freshmen living on campus has decreased from 622 in Fall 2019 to 442 in Fall 2021. 

During FY 2019-20, the weighted average cost for living on campus was $8,820. However, last year, the weighted average was $9,020 – a 2.3% increase. This year, the cost hasn’t changed.  

“There are many reasons some people decided to not live on campus,” said Cochran. 

Executive Vice President Dale Hamel said, “We are still hearing a hesitancy, both because of the continued prevalence of COVID and the impact on operations. It’s still not the same environment we had pre-COVID and what we will have post-COVID – I think it’s a combination.” 

Cochran said student opinions about COVID-19 regulations range from students who don’t agree with wearing a mask to those who “want a staff member posted on every wing to tell people to mask up.” 

Cochran said the number of students who have received at least one warning for not complying with the mask mandate varies among residence halls. 

He added warnings have been issued to between 20 and 30% of residents who were then referred to the Office of Community Standards for repeated violation of the masking policy. 

The Office of Community Standards is responsible for resolving complaints which allege violations of the Student Code of Conduct. 

Cochran said, “While we’re hoping those students will comply with the policy going forward, those who continue to violate the policy will face removal from residence halls. I would also note that we are greatly appreciative of all those residents who have been vigilant in masking in the halls, and who are actively helping to combat the spread of COVID-19. 

According to Cochran, either two or three students have been removed from the residence halls as of Dec. 2.

He said one student who was removed is “extremely sorry now.” The student was involved in 10 mask incompliance incidents, received a formal letter, and attended three formal conduct hearings “before it got to a point where they seriously could not keep going down that road.

“There are some others that are getting dangerously close,  unfortunately,” Cochran added.

He touched upon how some residents have expressed “angst” about the enforcement of the mask mandate.

According to Cochran,“the biggest change” that occurred since last spring was the vaccination requirement. He said vaccines allowed residence life to increase the capacity of residence halls. 

There are ways for students to socialize in residence halls while complying with the COVID-19 health protocols, according to Cochran. 

Paulina Mensah, a junior, said this is her first year working as an RA in West Hall. She said last year, an RA in Horace Mann Hall, Connie Bodemer, motivated her to become an RA. 

Mensah said she hosts events to connect with residents on her floor and in the building. 

She said there is a West Hall page on Instagram where she informs residents about her events. 

Despite posting advertisements for her events, Mensah said, “Because of COVID, there are more people doing their own thing because they don’t interact as much with others.” 

She added, “My events have connected people living on my floor and on other floors. People became friends, which makes me happy because my events are bringing people together.” 

Angel Muriel, a senior who works as an SDA in West Hall, did not live on campus last year because of COVID-19, which he said impacted his social life. 

Muriel said now that he resides on campus, he frequently attends RA events, which he said are fun. 

Chris Bretti, a senior who works as an SDA in West Hall recalled “the pot and brownie event,” where residents got to paint flower pots and then enjoy brownies. 

“I thought it was entertaining considering I like gardening. Events are really great – especially after the stress of the week. It’s nice to have a fun and relaxing event to ease the mind and build student interaction,” Bretti said. 

According to Cochran, despite COVID-19, living on campus is convenient and allows students to develop independence. 

“One of the things we have observed that changed from a couple years back is more people spending time together in lounges,” Cochran said. “I’ve personally noted, walking up State Street from Towers, there are more hellos, smiles, and waves. Things like that didn’t happen a few years ago all that often.

“To me, it’s a sign that people have felt isolated. They are appreciating being around each other,” he said.