UTEP’s Housing and Residence Life implements new policies for residents

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Victoria Almaguer, Contributor

After UTEP students living on campus were directed to move out by UTEP Housing and Residence Life (HRL) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they are now being given the opportunity to return.   

Although UTEP housing has never closed, students who could afford to relocate were encouraged to do so in the middle of spring 2020.     

“We definitely had to take some steps,” said Catie McCorryAndalisPh.D.associate vice president and dean of students. “It has meant increased diligence from cleaning and sanitation. It also has meant a real increase in education outreach to our residents to understand what it means to be part of this.”  

New rules were implemented to further combat the virus and keep students and staff safe, such as the reduction of capacity in apartments, an enforcement of masks and an isolation apartment in case students test positive for COVID-19.   

We are following not only the local state guidance when it comes to how to manage the coronavirus and steps to take to stay healthy and safe, but also the Centers for Disease Control as well,” McCorryAndalis said.   

While some residents are ready to move back, some are debating whether to renew their contract.  

“I understand most of the rules given are meant to keep us safe and less exposed to the virus, but I think that they can be more understating when it comes to finances,” said Naomi Valenzuela, a previous resident at  Miner Village. “I think the cancellation fee is really unfair during these times because things are incredibly unpredictable.”   

The Student Housing Contract has a cancellation policy where students are assessed a cancellation fee of $500 if the contract is cancelled before July 15th for the full academic year.   

“I can maybe overlook not giving a refund back because usually if the rent is paid in advanced it means the money came from financial aid or a scholarship, but you’re talking about students who perhaps live outside of the state, having to move out when they might not have the resources to do so as quickly as they might,” Valenzuela said.  

 Apart from the financial issues that could  arise from living on campus during a pandemic, Valenzuela fears that residents will not take into consideration the rules being implemented, especially if they continue to ignore the effects of the virus.  

“Right now, I’m concerned with getting roomed with someone who isn’t concerned with the virus, “Valenzuela said. “(Someone) who won’t take the necessary cautions to avoid the spread of the virus in our shared parts of the dorm.”  

Housing fees have remained the same in order to assist students who have been financially impacted by the pandemic. Resources available include the Campus Advocacy Resources and Education Act, the Food Pantry, and a new team set up to assist residents through this crisis 

 “We have case managers set aside, that is their full role right now, to help students through this financial crisis,” McCorryAndalis said.   

Recently, UTEP released a new and special website, titled “Resuming Campus Operations,” focused on entirely assisting students and staff during the pandemic.    

“The situation that we’re all dealing with is new, and it’s a very fluid situation and it changes,” McCorryAndalis said. “I think reading information that is shared is going to be super important, whether it’s through email, through the university social media folks, or campus bulletins that go out or looking at that website.”  

Students who are looking to reside on campus, but have financial issues, can contact the dean of students at DOS@utep.edu. The new UTEP website designed for students and staff during the COVID-19 pandemiccan be found on UTEP’s homepage at www.utep.edu. 

Vicky Almaguer may be reached at [email protected]