Though classes at UMass Boston are functioning remotely this fall, the University’s two residence halls remain open, with newly implemented restrictions to a reduced pool of residents. “Everybody acknowledges that it's going to be a very different in-person experience than previous years,” said John Sears, Director of Housing and Residential Life at UMass Boston in an interview in late July. “There's a core group of students and their families that still feel that they'd like to have that in-person experience even though it's going to be very different, and so we wanted to be able to provide that to them.”
The UMass Boston residence halls set its maximum capacity for residents at 385 students this fall, with a plan to give out-of-state and international students priority if necessary, according to Sears. Currently, the housing department is below its resident cap, with 304 residents.
“I don't think we're going to go up appreciably in that number but you know, we still do continue to get inquiries for housing for the fall semester,” Sears said in an interview on September 9th. He also confirmed that if a student made an inquiry throughout the fall semester, they would be considered for housing.
Students living in the Residence Halls have a much different framework for dorm life than the residents who came before them. According to the UMass Boston Fall 2020 Housing FAQ website, all students must live without a roommate. Students also have access to their own private bathroom, whether that bathroom be inside the room or a former community bathroom converted into an assigned private bathroom for the resident. The webpage lists the cost per semester for a private room with a bathroom located inside as $5,860, and $5,012 for a dormitory with a converted community restroom. “Our planning picked up into even higher gear in early August, as those planning details came together around testing, and I would say the plan was to bring students on, to do the arrival quarantine, to get them tested, and then get into a weekly testing regiment which we're entering now,” Sears said.
The move-in process began in late August, and extended into early September, before the beginning of classes. “Of course we spread it out, so we had three days of items drop off which went very well, where students had a two hour block by appointment, they signed up to bring their things in and then they left,” Sears said. “And then we had the three days of move-in, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, September second through the fourth, and that also was by appointment.”
“Compared to move-ins of the past it was kind of a sleepy town, and it was by design,” Sears continued. “It was spread out to reduce congestion, promote social distancing, and of course, students were asked to go into [an] arrival quarantine after their COVID-19 test, and that also went pretty well.”
All residents are still required to have a meal plan. According to the Fall 2020 residents FAQ page, all residents were automatically enrolled in Meal Plan A, which includes 19 meal swipes per week and 175 Dining Points for use at the UMarket. No guest meals are allowed this semester.
Many safety measures have been put in place for residents. “UHS (University Health Services) has been an incredibly hard working partner collaborating with us doing the onboarding and the weekly testing, which we're just going into the first week now,” Sears said. Still, some students disagree with the decision to open the Residence Halls. “I think it opening back up is a horrible idea and it should remain closed because health is more important than literally anything else,” Griffin Foster, a former resident of the UMass Boston dorms, said on Instagram in late July.
Conversely, Sears expressed optimism at the Residence Halls’ and the residents’ abilities to remain safe. “I'm hoping we'll be able to turn the corner,” Sears said. “So far, we have residents’ cooperation, and they're adhering to the guidelines.” Sears even spoke to potentially removing some restrictions in the halls, for example by opening up lounge spaces and allowing more visiting in the residence halls. “I'm hoping that we're going to be able to assess and look at the restrictions and where we can start to kinda loosen up a little bit, as long as we're heading in the right direction,” Sears said.