Some UT-Austin students opt to leave Austin housing early because of COVID-19 fears

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Photo Credit: Rocky Higine | Daily Texan Staff

Some students are choosing to leave their Austin housing and return home, fearing the University will send students home as coronavirus case numbers rise within the UT community. 

Students living on campus can stay until their housing contract ends Dec. 17 or leave early, while students living off campus can continue to pay rent or sublease their apartment if they want to go home.

As of Sept. 7, there have been eight reported cases in residence halls and 130 student cases overall since Sept. 1, according to reporting by The Daily Texan. UT has not declared a specific number of cases that would cause the school to transition online and send students home.

Nutrition freshman Zaina Ghaffar said she moved to Kinsolving Residence Hall Aug. 19 to take in-person classes, but she moved back home a week later when her classes were changed to online-only.

“I decided it wasn’t worth risking my family and those around me if it wasn’t necessary for me to be there,” Ghaffar said. “Because many campus resources were remote anyway, it was more financially responsible for me to move home.”

Cynthia Lew, University Housing and Dining director of marketing and communications, said students will receive an adjusted housing bill if they move out of their residence hall before Nov. 30, when fall in-person classes and activities will move online. She said emergency housing will be available for students who do not have somewhere else to go if UT closes. 

 

Omar Eldaour, government and international relations sophomore, said he moved to North Campus to attend an in-person class but switched to online-only classes for safety reasons. Eldaour said he did not feel comfortable seeing friends, so he felt lonely and decided he would rather be at home with his family. 

“I was just in the apartment all the time by myself,” Eldaour said. “I would also have to depend on my friends … for rides to do something as basic as (getting) food. I didn’t really think that arrangement was very feasible.”

Eldaour said he has a sister who is immunocompromised, so he is restricting contact with others before he goes home. He said he is currently in the process of subleasing his apartment so he can go home.

“I was really in a precarious situation,” Eldaour said. “I just felt like before anything bad happened, it would be smarter to just move back home for safety purposes.”

Biology sophomore Kushaal Vaidya said he originally decided to return to Austin even though he was worried about cases rising. However, now that he knows people who have been exposed to COVID-19, he said he is considering moving back home.

“I just feel like if the rate keeps going up and up and up, it’s almost not worth it for me to be here,” Vaidya said. “I don’t want to get (COVID-19), and even if I do, I don’t want any of my friends to get it from me.”

Vaidya said he feels he can take his classes just as easily from home, and it will be safer. 

“I don’t see how UT can put the responsibility of keeping everyone safe on us, the students, when we can only do so much,” Vaidya said. “They, as a University, could just be doing so much more than they are.”