The Student Government Association passed a resolution Thursday expressing concern over housing for students during winter break.
The resolution states that SGA is, “Disturbed by the Texas Wesleyan University Residence Life Office’s communication of mandatory vacating of all residence halls during the Winter Break.”
Earlier this month, students living on campus were sent emails and given flyers notifying them that the residence halls will be closed during Winter Break and students will not be allowed in the halls until they reopen for the spring semester.
A flyer given to residents in Elizabeth and O.C. Armstrong Halls from Hall Director Chelsea Skinner states that students not graduating this semester must vacate their rooms “24 hours after your last final or by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 12, whichever comes first. If you are graduating this fall, you must vacate your room by 12 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 17.”
Assistant Dean of Students for Residence Life Sarah McMahon wrote in an email Friday morning that there are several reasons for the halls closing during the break this school year including safety and security, lack of student services and maintenance.
“With the University being closed over break, our staffing is extremely limited and therefore we will not be able to allow students to remain in the halls after finals/graduation until the halls reopen for the spring semester,” McMahon wrote. “It is also a time that the university will be using to perform needed renovations and maintenance in the halls.”
McMahon wrote that the policy is not meant to cause issues for students and the university is only looking to benefit residents.
“Allowing a handful of students to be isolated in residence halls during a time the university is closed, is not a best practice,” McMahon wrote. “As stated earlier, it is also a time when facilities are updated, repairs are made, and water or electricity shut downs could occur due to said work, which would cause issues for residents if allowed to stay in halls without electricity or water.”
Exemptions will only be made for students who are on an athletic team with events occurring during the break, are from more than 300 miles away or have a personal situation in which they cannot return home for the break, McMahon wrote.
“Students may request an exception to this policy by making an appointment with their Hall Director, this year, by December 1,” McMahon wrote.
SGA President Zahraa Saheb said she attended the Nov. 10 Texas Wesleyan Board of Trustees meeting and expressed concern for students who are having to leave.
“I told them that SGA is trying to figure out a way to accommodate or help students during the winter break when they have to leave because some of them don’t have residencies,” she said.
Saheb said her concern sparked the attention of some of the board members and it started a dialogue with between her, Texas Wesleyan President Frederick Slabach and Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Dennis Hall.
“It is really saddening to find that our university is inconsiderate of these students and would not do much to accommodate students who would not be able to find residency if they must vacate their rooms,” she said. “I did this for our student body.”
However, Hall wrote in an email Friday morning that the policy and communication to students regarding the residence halls being closed over Winter Break has not changed.
“Over the past week, several concerns have been voiced about Winter Break and the residence halls being closed during this time,” he wrote. “Since the beginning of November, the Office of Residence Life has been communicating with residential students about Winter Break.”
Given all that has recently happened on campus, like rats in the Dora Roberts Dining Hall and the issues with security, Saheb said, the least the campus can do is allow students to stay in their rooms over the break.
Senior psychology major McKenzie Black said she was surprised to learn students are unable to stay during the break because she knows some of them have no place to go.
“I think people should be able to stay here,” Black said.
Senior biology major Yiqi Yang said when she learned she would have to leave the residence halls over winter break she felt sad and angry. Yang is from China and a plane ticket home cost her more than $1,700.
“Plane tickets are so expensive, and it takes me about thirty hours on the plane to go back to my country,” Yang said. “It is hard for me to go back and come back.”