As all classes have been moved online and students have evacuated campus due to the coronavirus outbreak, students are losing out on the resources and amenities they paid for.
Chancellor Andrew Leavitt announced last week in a university-wide email that students in the residence halls should evacuate with as many of their personal belongings as they can take with them.
Evacuated students are now left with unoccupied rooms and unused meals that they already paid thousands of dollars for.
Students who cannot return home are allowed to remain in the residence halls and get meals from Blackhawk Commons, but for students who have left campus, their money is effectively useless to them.
Since most students have left campus and will not be able to use their meal plans and stay in their dorms, UWO should refund some room and board costs to the students who returned home.
With the number of cases in Wisconsin steadily increasing, the university made the correct decision in sending us home and suspending classes in the midst of this highly contagious outbreak.
Since the virus is spread mainly between people who are in close contact, it would have been irrational and dangerous to keep students in close quarters on campus and in dorms.
But it is unfair to make students pay for services that they won’t, or even can’t, use.
Harvard, Ohio State, Brown University and other universities across the country that evacuated students are offering prorated refunds to their students for room and board. As of writing, UWO has not made any announcements as to whether they are considering any form of refunds to students.
Residence hall room rates and meal plans are expensive. Room rates start at $2,240 a semester for a standard shared room and go as high as $3,390 a semester for a private bedroom suite in Horizon Village, while meal plans range from $1,025 to $1,850 a semester.
Now that students won’t be around to use their meal plans and stay in their dorms, that is a lot of wasted money.
Students who have left campus should be given a portion of their housing and dining fees back.
Some students spent thousands of dollars that were supposed to be for their housing and dining this semester and because of campus closing, that money has been wasted.
Housing that has been turned into empty rooms or storage spaces until further notice and food that has been turned into unavailable meals.
It would be unfair to have students pay for something they cannot get access to.
It is important that the university took measures to ensure the safety of its students by moving to online classes and asking students in the dorms to go home, keeping all students in the residence halls and having all dining areas remain open would have been reckless.
But now that the decision has been made to remove students from the dorms, it makes no sense to keep students’ room and board and meal plan money when they won’t be able to use it.
If the semester has to be finished online and students are not able to return to living in their residence halls, they deserve to be refunded a portion of their housing and dining fees.