RU residents react to COVID-19 changes in dorm halls

by Raneen El-Barbarawi / Staff Reporter

The outside of the Wabash building. Photo by Raneen El-Barbarawi.

As uncrowded elevators, vacated dorm halls and a somewhat haunting environment spread throughout the residence halls of the Wabash Building, it was indeed a sign that the COVID-19 pandemic was not only affecting the rest of the world, but specifically the Roosevelt community. 

An email was sent out on Friday, March 13 stating that guests were prohibited from being signed in after 5 p.m. and after Governor Pritzker signed his stay-at-home policy on March 20, things became worse for Roosevelt students.

Several emails were sent out indicating that “the dining center and only essential residence life, like building maintenance and campus security will remain open.”

Students had to also inform residence life of their future whereabouts in terms of remaining or leaving campus in order to “have a better idea of who is in the residence halls and to limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19,” according to an email sent out by residence life. 

Moreover, the Roosevelt community pushed all classes online beginning on March 23. All events were cancelled, and most facilities were closed.

 As a result, the 14th-floor community kitchen, restrooms, recreation room and streaming services were also made off limits to students. 

The emails also strongly suggested that students stay at home and practice social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus. 

“Having to move out due to the pandemic has caused me to have to make changes to my life,” said Julian Payne, 20, a sophomore majoring in psychology. “I’ve had to move back in with family and upon moving back in, we’ve had to ration supplies like food and toiletries.”

Payne explained that the transition has been “fine” for him. “Not much has differed for me besides not having to spend money on food from the cafe, versus when I lived at Roosevelt.”

However, other students spoke on the negative impact that moving out of the Wabash building has had on them.

“It’s been hard because I can’t go out and see friends or do pretty much anything,” said Chidi Ukegbu, 19, a freshman pre-med and psychology major. “My parents are really scared because of this pandemic, so they drove all the way to Chicago from Dallas just to get me.”

Another student, 19-year-old Kaila Beckwith, a sophomore majoring in business at RMU, mentioned how difficult it is to have your routine “uprooted and changed into something else,” Beckwith, who is originally from Memphis, said “I don’t get to see my friends. My education and everyday life is put at a halt.” 

Other students, like Ukegbu, have noticed the change in their life after having to move back in with family. “I loved college because I could live how I wanted and make my own decisions academically and socially. Being at home, I can’t do any of that. I feel like I’m back in high school again,” Ukegbu added. 

Nana Kyekyeku, 18, a freshman majoring in computer science at Roosevelt, explained that he remained at the dorm halls up until March 24. “It’s very quiet now. There aren’t a lot of people there. Everything is pretty much closed. It’s just not the same.”

Indeed, the residential halls gave people the option to move out or remain living in the dorms. As of right now, the dorm halls are still open.

“I like how they handled the situation because a lot of parents wanted us to go back, but other students might have different circumstances where they need to stay,” said Kyekyeku, adding that he plans on living in the dorm halls next semester as well.

The inside of a single dorm on the 29th floor. Photo by Raneen El-Barbarawi.

However, other students didn’t reciprocate the same optimism that Kyekyeku indicated towards how Roosevelt handled the situation. 

Kamaria Grayson, 17, a freshman majoring in integrated marketing at Roosevelt University, mentioned that she had no clothes at home for the first week of the extended spring break. When she was able to return to school to get more of her things, she felt rushed. “I feel like everything is being poorly done — there’s no sense of sympathy for the kids that had to move out of the dorms,” said Grayson.

“I feel like I have been robbed because I can’t enjoy my full semester in the dorm that I paid for or I can’t use the meal plan that I paid for. Move out procedures were in place but I still feel like we were not being informed on what to do,” Grayson said, adding that she does plan on returning to the Wabash halls for the fall semester. 

Students like Erionna Moore, 18, a freshman majoring in early childhood development at Roosevelt, also expressed the same amount of frustration towards not being able to receive a refund for moving out. “I feel like I was robbed because I paid for the meal plan money that I won’t be receiving next year. Room and board weren’t free, so we shouldn’t have to leave empty-handed.”

Moore then explained that living on campus has “expanded her social life.” But, without it, she would “return to the antisocial person” she was. 

Gabriella Bonilla 18, a freshman majoring in business management, also spoke on the impact moving out has left towards her mental and social life. “The biggest impact that the move out has had on me is mentally. It was a huge adjustment that came with little time to adjust to,” said Bonilla. “I had just perfected my everyday routine within the walls of the campus and now I have to start from square one, which has made me lose motivation for some things.”

However, international students like Martin Lasaosa, 20, a sophomore who was studying media studies at Roosevelt, explained that he couldn’t return back to Spain — his native country — due to the widespread virus and limited ground transportation. 

“I’m kinda stuck here for a bit. It puts me in an uncertain situation. I was scared that Roosevelt dorms were going to shut down,” said Lasaosa, adding that he moved to Minnesota to stay with one of his friends. 

Indeed, most students spoke on having to adjust to limited cafe options and a closed gym as well. 

“Both are super convenient when living in the dorms, so having to adjust to cooking food again and going outside to workout, was definitely the changes that stood out the most.” said Bonilla. 

“The best thing is being able to wake up and go to class,” said 18-year-old Davon Holmes, a freshman majoring in law at Robert Morris University. “But, as of now, you have to wake up and find a way to communicate with your teachers, you have to find a meal to eat everyday.”  

Despite the uncertainty of the situations they’re in, many students still have things they’re looking forward to in the future and changes they want to see.

Moore, who plans to live in the residence halls again next semester, said that she is looking forward to the gyms opening back up. Others, like Kyekyeku, are looking forward to going back. “Living in Wabash is a pretty good experience. I think the whole situation was unfortunate, but I like how Roosevelt handled it,” said Kyekyeku.

Others, like Payne, are curious to see how this will affect the next school year and the integration with Robert Morris.

On the other hand, Bonilla said, “I’m definitely looking forward to using more of my time to explore new things and use Chicago as a resource for learning and enjoying.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing my friends again. My first year was cut short, so I’m going to have to make more memories and hang out with more people next year,” said Ukegbu.

As for plans going forward, Lasaosa advises that people “stay inside and practice social distancing.”

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