Campus housing enlists safeguards, maintains high occupancy rate

Published: September 16, 2020
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Auburn University Housing has enacted many safeguards this year to address the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. Amid such change, student demand for on-campus housing remains high, and occupancy rates are on par with those of last year.

“Despite all the COVID-related challenges and unknowns, students still desire to stay on campus and we appreciate those students who have made on-campus housing their home away from home,” said Kevin Hoult, director of University Housing and Residence Life.

Hoult said that for the fall semester the on-campus housing occupancy rate is at 96 percent, with 4,643 students residing on campus. That’s just 1 percent below that of the previous year’s rate.

“I believe that staying on campus has become a valued Auburn experience,” he said.

This year, Hoult said several new protocols have been enacted to promote the health and safety of the campus’ student residents—to include the addition of hand sanitizer stations in all residence halls, the requirement of masks being worn indoors until the resident enters their personal room, signage promoting physical distancing and changes to visitation and programming policies.

Residents who live on campus are able to visit other on-campus residence halls, but students who do not live on campus and non-students are not allowed into the halls. Residents' families were allowed to assist students with moving in on their designated move-in day, but after that move residents were not to have any outside guests. In addition to the visitation adjustments, University Housing also has not permitted room changes. That said, any resident can always contact their resident assistant, graduate area coordinator or area coordinator to address concerns.

In the way of physical distancing, the occupancy for residence hall common spaces also has been limited, with minimal furniture being placed and then spaced six to 10 feet apart.

“The health and safety of our residents is always at the forefront of every decision we make,” Hoult said.

University Housing also has a very detailed plan it follows should it learn of any resident needing to quarantine or isolate.

“We receive information from both the Auburn University Medical Clinic and the student self-report form when a resident needs to quarantine or isolate,” Hoult said. “When we receive that information, we contact the student via email asking if they need on-campus accommodations. If the student completes the intent form indicating that they need on-campus quarantine/isolation housing, we send them an email that includes their temporary assignment and other important information they will need to know while staying in quarantine and isolation housing.”

It is the students’ choice to either quarantine or isolate in separate, designated on-campus housing or to do so at their home away from campus.

In looking back on the past few week so far, Hoult said things have gone well for housing, noting how 91 percent of residents who participated in Housing’s move-in process at the start of the semester said in a survey that the process met their expectations—a 7.5 percent increase from the previous year. Hoult also said that 83 percent of students who were a part of move-in activities said they would like to see University Housing facilitate a similar process for next year.

Hoult said he enjoys hearing from residents, and he knows that in the days ahead it will take a continued and strong commitment to adopting new protocols and needed safeguards to ensure a full and successful fall semester.

“I would encourage all residents to practice A Healthier U policies and remember that it takes all of us to create and maintain a safe and healthy environment,” he said. “We all must do our part.”

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.