Residence Life updates Winter Break policies

Students will be able to stay on campus over Winter Break after all, RLH said in an email

Residence+Life+and+Housing+will+be+providing+housing+for+students+over+Winter+Break%2C+the+office+announced+in+an+email+sent+on+Nov.+10.+The+change+came+after+students+expressed+concern+over+logistics.

Residence Life and Housing will be providing housing for students over Winter Break, the office announced in an email sent on Nov. 10. The change came after students expressed concern over logistics.

Aine Pierre, News Editor

On Nov. 10, Residence Life and Housing (RLH) announced the reversal of its original decision regarding Winter Break housing. Now, students who need to stay in Winston-Salem for any reason can reside in university-sponsored housing.

The announcement followed a month-long period of deep concern for international students, many of whom are unable to go home between semesters. On Oct. 4, RLH announced it would be closing all residential facilities at the university over Winter Break, a reversal from its policy last year.  On Oct. 28, the Old Gold & Black published a report by Mingxuan Zhu, Dexter Peters and Elena Marsh calling attention to the predicament of these students.

“Staying in a hotel or renting a house is not safe and not cheap,” Qianyue Zhang told the Old Gold & Black in the Oct. 28 article. “And besides, we do not have cars, so that is another big issue. We cannot go anywhere, and we have to take Uber, which is also very expensive.”

According to the email, students will now either be placed in double-occupancy hotel rooms or university-sponsored housing from Dec. 12-Jan. 8.

RLH said that student concerns were the driving force behind the change.

“Some students expressed frustration regarding housing options over Winter Break as the pandemic continues to affect travel plans, especially for international students,” RLH Associate Director of Operations Dr. Zachary Blackmon said. “[Students] raised important concerns about housing insecurity, travel difficulties and other personal considerations during this upcoming period.”

Students must apply to stay on campus over Winter Break by Nov. 21 at 11:59 p.m. Those approved will be charged $750, which, according to the email, is a similar rate as that charged to those who stayed on campus over Winter Break last year. Students can apply for financial aid to cover those costs, too.

“Our office is working with the Financial Aid team to review students requesting Winter Break housing who might have demonstrated financial need,” Blackmon said.

Blackmon continued: “Financial Aid staff will connect with those students to discuss what options might be available for support during the break period.”

University operations will also be limited throughout Winter Break so staff can also be afforded time off. More details on exactly what services will or will not be available are forthcoming, according to the email.

Khushi Arya, who was quoted in the Oct. 28 story, expressed mixed emotions about the policy change.

“I think it’s great that RLH decided to provide international students a housing option,” Arya said. “It’s still [bothersome] that it took all of this.”

Arya also credited the Oct. 28 article with implementing the change.

“This instance goes to show the power of journalism,” Arya said. “I am proud of [Zhu] for amplifying the voices of international students at Wake and advocating for change.”

Blackmon noted that a plan is in the works to ensure that RLH can provide Winter Break housing in future years so the apprehension experienced by current international students is a one-off experience.

“We do hope to incorporate Winter Break housing options into our regular planning for future years and will communicate more information about those options as our plans are finalized,” Blackmon said.