The University of Wisconsin System will refund prorated housing and dining charges for the remaining spring semester for students leaving campus, according to a news release Thursday.
The reimbursements will exclude the original spring break period and be issued by the end of the semester. Chancellors were consulted on and agree with the decision, according to the release.
“We recognize the tremendous upheaval this pandemic has inflicted on the lives of our students, and we appreciate their patience and their sacrifice,” System President Ray Cross said. “This reimbursement is the right thing to do.”
After UW-Madison announced Tuesday that in-person classes will be suspended through spring, school administration began asking students to sign up for specific time windows to move out. The times are staggered to limit the number of people in buildings simultaneously, said housing spokesman Brendon Dybdahl in an email.
About 1,100 students remained in residence halls during spring break, though this number will likely change as more leave for their permanent residences. Those who require on-campus housing, such as international students who cannot return home or do not have internet access to online courses, are asked to fill out a COVID-19 accommodation request.
“It is helpful to get rooms and buildings emptied out sooner rather than later, so that we can consolidate our services and do any cleaning and maintenance that is needed,” Dybdahl said. “But we want the move-out process to be convenient for people, and students will not be assessed any added fees or lose out on any refund credits to their account if they can’t get their belongings until later this spring.”
In a Facebook Live video on Wednesday, housing director Jeff Novak added that empty residence halls could hypothetically serve as overflow rooms, in the chance that Madison hospitals face bed shortages. Other schools, such as New York University, Tufts University and Middlebury College, have also begun preparing for such scenarios.
The university’s new COVID-19 leave policy created an 80-hour leave bank for employees who are asked not to report to work but cannot perform their duties remotely or are unable to work — due to illness, caring for an ill family member or ordered to self-quarantine. This includes housing and dining employees, who are categorized as “essential employees”: Hourly, on-site essential employees will be paid for hours worked and eligible to receive a lump-sum payment.
With a drastic decrease in campus life, potential changes to staffing levels remain unclear. Student hourly staff, who help keep much of it running, are facing reduced work and are not included in the policy.
On Tuesday, house fellows in residence halls received an email that work shifts will become “much more limited.” Resident assistants will now just be considered residents and won’t receive the remainder of their stipend pay moving forward, according to the email.
University spokeswoman Meredith McGlone said in an email that “we recognize that this situation is affecting students financially in a wide variety of ways.”
“We're communicating directly to students as new information becomes available,” McGlone said. “We continue to encourage students to contact the Office of Student Financial Aid for financial assistance, no matter what their circumstances (e.g. student worker or not).”
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